For the love of Recycling

Last night it was The Creative Project Devon’s June meet up. I was lucky enough to give a showcase talk about how I reduce waste in my design work. I should mention this was after a fab talk by the Exeter Scrapstore, who filled me with joy that I can become a member and get some materials for me to enjoy with my toddler at home.

I also provided the raffle prize, which was a Reloved 52 Imagination Parcel. These will be sold in my etsy shop in the near future and are aimed at creative people. Inside the parcel is a selection of materials with no instructions and a card explaining that the materials can be used anyway you choose and that there are no rules! When they’re ready for general sale I’ll provide a link, but for now here’s a photo of what it looked like:

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The wider ethos of Reloved 52 is to keep stuff out of the landfill and give objects new life, so cutting down on waste and unecessary spending is very important when I’m designing.

In order to prepare for this talk I had to sit down and think carefully about how I achieve this and what processes I use. Having not previously thought about this, I found it very eye opening to write it down on paper.

What I realised is that I ask myself questions when I find I’ve got materials left over. How I organise those materials is absolutely key to my work as a designer.

I prepared a handout to go with my talk and I thought I would share it here on the blog too, as it might be handy for some of you lovely creative folks out there.

This is the Reloved 52 guide for creative people on how to cut down waste:

Reloved 52 – How to reduce and reuse your wastage.

I know that the word thrifty is not terribly popular these days but essentially this is my guide on how to get thrifty. It’s good for your business and the planet to cut down on wastage and find ways of making other products to be more profitable. This works for small independent businesses as well as your home life. If you’re anything like me then often you are juggling both anyway!

How to get started – these are the questions I ask myself when I find I’ve got wastage or excess materials from a project

  • What materials can I reuse for home or business purpose?
  • If I can’t reuse them can I recycle them?
  • If I can’t recycle them can I upcycle them for a different use or project?
  • Can they be stored for later if I can’t think of a use for them straight away?
  • Is there anybody else who could use the scraps if I can’t?
  • Sort into different sizes for easy access later on (especially with fabrics!)

What materials do you most commonly work with? Can you find a new purpose for your wastage?

Give yourself a challenge – make a project without any new materials – only stuff you already have. This is a great way to use up old things and flex your creative muscle. I try and do at least one thing every day that uses something up. It doesn’t have to be a big project.

Here are ten recent projects I’ve done lately to use up old stuff & keep my spending down:

  1. I used an old suitcase I had as teddy storage for my toddler daughter.
  2. I made a play kitchen out of an old side table, some yellow paint and some chalkboard paint.
  3. I used some old lace to make a new necklace.
  4. I made some fun art prints of animals out of excess handmade paper.
  5. I went through my wardrobe and am currently halfway through a huge mending pile – some clothes may be upcycled if I can’t fix them!
  6. I cut off the legs to my old maternity jeans and turned them into fabric boxes.
  7. I made floor cushions out of jungle fabric and used the leftovers to make matching toy hammocks for (yup you guessed it) more soft toys.
  8. I planted my seasonal herb garden in otherwise unused household goods (a broken handled teapot, bamboo noodle bowl etc)
  9. I needed new craft drawers so instead of buying them I painted an old small set of drawers I already had in a grey colour– actually I had two sets, the other one I painted in bright colours for my toddlers room.
  10. I used old vintage buttons from my collection to make beautiful rings.

Push yourself to come up with new uses for old things and soon it’ll become second nature. In fact you may have to stop yourself eyeing things up before they’ve outlived the original purpose!

Bonus Idea

Reloved 52 originally started as a blog to cut down spending on unnecessary items. These are the things I now ask myself before buying anything new.

  • Do I really need it?
  • Can I make it instead?
  • Can I trade with a friend?
  • Can I buy it in good condition second hand?
  • Can I buy it from a local indie or from fairtrade?
  • Can I afford it now, can I wait for a sale?

When I first started this process I found I would stop at the first question because I didn’t really need whatever it was. As the years roll by though, I find I naturally don’t want things I don’t need because I’ve trained myself to think differently about stuff.

Question your purchases, Question your rubbish bin! 

Happy thrifting 

Jessica x

Vegan Banana & Courgette Cake Recipe

Ah hello my beautiful loaf cake.

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I’ve tried loaf cakes before but often experienced the dense soggyness of disappointment. Not this time, this vegan banana cake came out with a beautiful texture and lightness. Yum nom nom.

Let’s get started!

You will need:

2 overripe large bananas

½ average sized courgette grated finally

75g coconut oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer)

75g brown sugar

225g self raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

handful of chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Mash bananas well. Grate courgette straight into the bowl and then mix well with the oil and sugar.
  3. Fold in flour, baking powder and spices and then the chopped nuts if you are including these.
  4. Pour mixture into your lined loaf tin. I like to sprinkle pumpkin seeds on the top for added crunch and joy. You can omit these or sprinkle with a topping of your choice.
  5. Bake for 20 mins initially. Remove from oven and cover with tin foil to prevent the top from burning. Bake for further 40-50 mins until skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 mins before removing from tin and leave to cool completely on a rack or on top of the tin. (Alternatively lose all self control and immediately slice and devour.) Tastes excellent by itself or even better with a generous slab of soya spread.

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There you have it, super easy, delicious and earth friendly vegan loaf cake.

Have a great week

Jessica x

Sources: I got the original recipe from BBC Good Food here (that website is such a lifesaver) and this recipe is a modified version of it. 

9 months say what???

I’m reliably informed by the date stamps on wordpress that I haven’t blogged in 9 months. Basically what this means is that it has been 9 months since we listed our flat for sale and it is now sold (nearly…paperwork’s a b***h)

I’ve found the whole process quite energy draining and all consuming. Every week the little calendar alert would pop up **write blog post** and inwardly I would sigh and promise myself next week.

Ah well, I’m back now! Even though I haven’t been blogging, I have still been doing all my sustainable things and trying out some new things too. I’ve also figured out I can schedule posts which means things will appear on the blog with a bit more regularity now (can’t believe I missed this vital lesson in blogging!)

Just to bring you up to speed here’s what’s been going on behind the scenes at reloved 52 headquarters…

Im still vegetarian and with 9 months practice behind me I’ve now got a glut of recipes to share with you!

We’re still using reusable nappies at home but we had to relent and send disposables to nursery and the nana’s because nappy rash was too much of a battle. However we never ever use disposable baby wipes and use our reusable cheeky wipes instead. I’m also making my own “baby bum spray” which I’ll share the recipe for soon.

I’ve been doing a lot of crafting, sewing and general upcycling and reusing of things. There’ll be a lot more of that to come too with moving house I need to save the family budget money at every turn! I’ll try to get in better habits with my camera so I can share proper photos with you. All being well we will be moving to a victorian terrace so plenty of opportunity to use old stuff for new 🙂

Spring has sprung and I wish you and yours a happy weekend

Jessica x

Week 9

Flat for sale.

Okay Okay Okay I know! I’ve been a little slow on the blog front, BUT it’s for a very good reason. We’ve just put our flat on the market, so I’ve been investing all my spare time into cleaning, decluttering and cleaning and tidying and yes you guessed it, Cleaning!

So over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been attempting to make my flat as beautiful as possible for as little money as possible to tempt those prospective buyers. If you’ve ever watched any “how to sell your house” shows it’s easy to imagine the wad of cash and the flouncing around B&Q/homebase/any home related shop, in an attempt to spruce up the place a bit.

In reality its oh so not as glamorous as it seems. Or as fun. Or as exciting. Nothing strikes fear into my heart right now as my one year old escaping with cherry stained hands and gleefully touching everything in sight. *sigh* as I reach for the cloth and the flash spray.

Here’s what I did to achieve beautiful selling pictures:

1.) Organise the pictures to be taken on a nursery day, to avoid early morning tornado style destructive disasters from my beautiful but messy one year old darling.

2.) clean like I’m OCD for the afternoon before, whilst entertaining said one year old with lots of dancing, cbeebies and occasionally snacks in front of the TV (which then require 2 or 3 rounds of hoovering to remedy.)

3.) spend the evening once the little un is tucked up in bed doing some more cleaning.

4.) fall into bed, ready for a good sleep and notice about ten things that need doing in the bedroom. repeat two or three times before finally collapsing into a fitful sleep.

5.) on the morning of the photos, shove every unsightly or clutter making object into every available draw, cupboard or wardrobe space.

6.) pray all the above doors hiding unsightly object remain closed and don’t burst open when the photographer arrives.

7.) 5 mins before action time, spot at least 20 places that need a damn good scrub. Attempt all of them as quickly as possible.

8.) sigh with relief once task complete.

9.) enjoy the tidiness for a short spell before picking up the one year old/disaster maker from nursery.

10.) realise that photos are just the start, next come the viewings….

Although this week is really not related to sustainable family living at all, I hope you had a good laugh anyway.

Jessica x

Week Eight

Vegetarian Mama

So this blog is very much about my personal journey to make my family more eco friendly and our lifestyle more sustainable.  I think the issue of sustainability is in pretty much everything that we do. The way we travel, the way we shop and definitely in the way we eat…

This week I watched the video Vegucated. The long one about 3 people trying to go vegan. It took me most of the week to get through it in small chunks. You know in between nappy changes and playtime and making dinner and putting on the wash. Well in the end I finished watching and I’m glad I did. It made my mind up. Im going vegetarian. In fact I’ve been heading that way for a while so this really just gave me the final push. I quit pork in november and I’ve gradually been decreasing my meat consumption ever since.

I’m really glad that I’ve reached this point in my life. It’s something I’ve been evolving too without realising for a while. I’m not one of those lucky people that can change the habits of my lifetime overnight and it stick. I have to gradually work towards better decisions and habits and I think this is one of those times where the result is actually better than the original intention.

The intention being to eat less meat to encourage a more varied and healthy diet. The result of becoming vegetarian means in essence a total (thought gradual) overhaul of my eating habits PLUS no more eating Mrs chicken and Mrs cow which aligns more with my kindness to all ethics and morals.

The reason I’m not going vegan at this point is because I do rely on cheese and eggs to bump up my protein and also my trade is baking so I think it would make me a bit of a hypocrite to not eat these things at home but sell them gladly in the forms of sweet and delicious cakes. Plus for me it would make cooking for Penny very tricky! Cheese omelette is my fail safe when we’re going through a grumpy day.

With vegetarianism in mind, I’ll be posting some more vegetarian recipes this week!

Have a great day

Jessica x

Vegetable Lentil Dahl

Easy lentils for easy meals, Simples.

Ingredients

tbsp olive oil

1 cloves garlic

1 x finely chopped onion

1 x grated courgette

3 x grated carrot

1 x veggie stock cube

350 gms red lentils

salt and pepper for seasoning

Herbs of your choosing (I like a sprig of rosemary)

Method

Fry the onion, courgette and carrot in the olive oil in a big saucepan or frying pan until the mixture softens and starts to go brown. Mix in the stock cube and a splash of boiling water. Continue to stir for 2 mins. Use a hand blender to blitz the mixture in the pan so it’s quite fine. Gradually add 750ml of boiling water. Once the water is combined pour in the lentils and simmer for 20-25 mins. Use a hand whisk to help the lentils break down (if you’re using your best pan try using a silicone whisk to prevent scratches.) It’s done once the lentils have soaked up the liquid and have gone nice and soft.

After cooking you can eat straight away as a side dish or on it’s own with some salad and bread. Russell discovered by accident that it tastes good as a topper to hummus on toast!

You can vary the vegetables you use depending on what’s in your fridge, great for using up veg that might be on the turn.

Keep leftovers in the fridge in a tightly sealed tupperware container for up to 3 days.

Happy cooking!

Jessica x

Week Seven

Fast Fashion

I’m an 80’s kid. I grew up in the world of fast fashion. As a child I wore what was bought for me. As a teenager I used my pocket money and then wages to buy high street fashion. As a student I dabbled with many styles but pretty much always bought from the cheap high street chains. The idea of a capsule wardrobe was completely alien to me. If I needed a fancy dress outfit, a ball dress, a seasonal change of clothes, I would think nothing of wondering into Exeter town centre and purchasing what I ‘needed ‘with fairly little cost. Monetary cost that is. My wardrobe was vast with stuff, yet empty with personality.

Now I’m nearing my 30’s. I’m fairly settled in my fashion choices, I know what suits me and what doesn’t and I prefer to buy clothes that will last many years in both quality and style. That doesn’t mean I spend huge amounts of money though. I often charity shop, ebay or vintage shop for what I’m after. I don’t mind waiting till I happen across it rather than rushing out immediately and scouring every shop and then end up settling on something that maybe wasn’t quite right after all.

I am a careful consumer, I don’t often impulse buy and if I do, it’s for something truly fantastic, (or a pair of shoes that actually fit my giantess feet.) Careful budgeting is a personal choice. It doesn’t address the issue of being an ethical consumer, which has become a big topic for me this week.

We’ve all seen or heard about the terrible Rana Plaza factory disaster which happened last year, the BBC posted this article of stories of survivors a year on. They are all struggling. We are still buying fast fashion. Fast fashion which has proven to be lethal. Lethal not to us, the consumer, but to those labourers who are forced to keep up with our demand, by companies whose only interest is in profit margins and certainly not the safety and welfare and wellbeing of their exhausted workforces.

I saw a post on Facebook about a girl who bought a primark dress with a plea for help stitched into the dress. The article can be found here. The plea was “forced to work exhausting hours.”

What was the purchasers reaction? To state that she was so appalled that she couldn’t wear the dress again and it had got her thinking about cheap fashion and how it was made. Fantastic! The label had done it’s job and I think this particular person will definitely reevaluate her shopping choices next time round.  Plus as it has been shared on social media and picked up by the newspapers there is an even greater awareness and I think more labels may now have been found in other primark clothes. (Primark are apparently investigating but they haven’t released anything informative at the time of this post.)

As great as this is and as much as this may get us thinking about cheap fashion, I can’t help but find it terribly sad that our society has reached this point. That we seemingly have no ability to identify the source of our products as consumers and take some responsibility for it. That we have to be reminded by something as shocking as this label to take action against such exploitation against labourers. To me that plea was saying, “STOP. Stop buying this cheap product. Something this cheap cannot be made ethically. Please stop and think about how much power you have as a consumer.”

So I’ve made a vow to myself. I’m not a perfect consumer. I’ll be honest. I have a serious lack of time. I don’t have the ability to lobby companies and drum up lots of publicity and take this on as a cause. I have an 11 month old and a job. at 7:30 when my daughter goes to bed I can barely string a sentence together, (or hang up the washing straight) but I CAN and I WILL do better as an individual consumer. I can be more ethical and I can have a positive impact by making good choices and teaching my daughter as she grows up to do the same. Fast fashion = Dangerous Fashion! So here is is what I have been working on:

I have gone through the contents of my whole wardrobe (summer season, I’ll do my winter stuff too when September comes) and categorised everything. I now know how many dresses/trousers/shorts/tops/long sleeves/jumpers etc etc etc I have in my possession and I can see them all at a glance instead of having to dig around in a never ending pile of textiles. This means that not only is putting an outfit together a much easier task but I also know if there are any genuine garment gaps in my wardrobe – no more doubling up!

This might not seem like a big deal, but I feel I have much more control over my fashion. I counted all my garments and was very pleased to note that about 70% was actually second hand/vintage or slow,ethical fashion. Plus the majority of the 30% high street fast fashion I own was purchased during pregnancy or the breast feeding months and was mostly Marks and Spencers Fairtrade clothing, which I don’t feel too bad about. So it seems I’ve been gradually heading towards this point for some time, without consciously acknowledging it.

The more taxing bit will come when I want to add to, or change parts of my wardrobe. So I’m vowing to myself that I will only buy ethical brands that have proven track records in both their labour and environmental policies. I’m also going to work hard towards being able to make my own clothes properly so that I can reduce the need for high street as much as possible.

Hurrah, moral compass pointing at excellent. But wait, what about my daughter Penny. Hum. I can’t do all these wonderful moral things for myself and then pop into Gap for her clothes. I definitely don’t have the time to make all of her clothes and why would I when she’ll be out of them in the blink of an eye. I definitely cannot afford to buy organic ethical clothes for every season either (trust me, I’ve done the research.) Luckily my steely determination to save money at every turn means I have already been buying second hand clothes since she was born. Each season/growth spurt I pop on ebay and buy a bundle of clothes from other parents wanting to declutter and make a bit of cash. This isn’t a perfect system because I do end up with some clothes that I don’t really want or need for Penny and mostly the clothes are still high street made. BUT I am not the original purchaser, so the big fat companies are not making any profit from me personally, clothes that already exist are being kept out of the landfill AND other parents are getting some money back in their wallets. To be honest 90% of what I’ve got in the bundles so far may be second hand but babies grow so fast that the clothes are hardly used. So on the whole I think it’s a win. When I’m done with them, whatever is still in good condition I will resell on ebay and the rest I’ll recycle or up cycle.

I think this is the best I can achieve as an individual consumer at this point in time. Have you changed your consumer habits recently? Has this inspired you to make changes? I hope so, for the sake of the unnamed labourer who reached out to her western counterparts for help by stitching a label into a piece of fast, dangerous fashion that she was forced to make.

Until next time and thanks for reading

Jessica x