Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Top 10 tips for a cut-price Christmas

Thanks to everyone who gave me tips for a cut-price Christmas in the kitchen this year.

This is the result. Please follow the link and post a comment!

Zoe Murphy furniture

My Eco Self quite likes numbers, and spreadsheets, and calculators with big buttons. So when I saw this table, I knew I just had to feature it here.It has been designed by British artist Zoe Murphy, who 'upcycles' pieces of mid-20th Century furniture, using bright colours inspired by her seaside home of Margate, Kent. Even her textiles are recycled; wedding dress silks which have been unpicked, dyed and printed.

Zoe kindly answered a few questions for me.

What inspires you?
I am mostly inspired by the 'everyday' and have always been influenced by designers and artists who turn a concept on its head or make people view things in different ways. Most of my work is focused on trying to draw attention to furniture and textile pieces that are otherwise left unloved and disregarded. As a result I use a lot of recycling in my designs and utilise processes such as veneering and patchworking constantly.

How would you describe your perfect day?
My perfect day - which I get to induldge in almost every Sunday of the summer - is waking up at 6am to get to a bootfair with my mum and rummaging around for an hour or three before retiring to a local cafe for a huge mug of tea and a bacon sandwich. The rest of the day is usually spent cleaning up all of the things I have bought and drawing up ambitious plans to regenerate each of them.

How can someone buy your work?
I mostly create bespoke pieces for individual clients. However, pieces are going into galleries in the UK and Scotland and I am in discussion with a London dept. store who will be taking on some of the work in the new year. Most of the work is made to order but some pieces, such as the Formica and some of the furniture, I will be making and then posting on the site for sale. With so much furniture and textiles gathered over the summer there are a lot of interesting things to come!

Thanks Zoe! Please check out her website for more information and up-to-date pieces for sale.
Originally posted at Tea for Joy.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Eco(nomy) Christmas

My Eco Self is looking for tips for a money-saving Christmas in the kitchen. Do you have any ideas? A cheaper alternative to turkey? Good ideas for leftovers? Telling the relatives to stay at home?

Any ideas welcome.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Vote for Boutiko

My Eco Self's friend, Boutiko, has been nominated for an award at Green England's Green Awards, in the best Fair Trade Company category. Go, Tara!

Please vote for Boutiko, here - it will only take a few seconds!

Rob Pepper and Daily Drawing Diary

My Eco Self has recently discovered the beautiful illustrations of Rob Pepper. He has drawn every day for the last four years, and posted the drawings at The Daily Drawing Diary. his simple images are just what I need when my brain is going fuzzy at blog text overload.

For all you budding artists out there (or even if you're not) Rob is running a two-week trip to Kerala in India with the Responsible Tourism Award-winning company The Blue Yonder in February 2009. A group of 10 will participate in art workshops alongside those of local Indian artists. The trip will offset its carbon by physically planting saplings in a local reforestation project. The trip will also go on a spice tour and learn local cooking.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Eco admission

I have an admission to make. I have been distracted from the eco blog by a new blog I have started. It is at www.teaforjoy.blogspot.com. Please have a look. Don't judge me too harshly if you notice that I have occasionally posted the same things on both blogs, but I think there are two different sets of readers.

I have not abandoned my Eco Self, but am taking a short sabbatical. Instead I am writing about lots of lovely, unnecessary things I don't need, as I have a really strong interest in design. Doesn't sound very eco, does it? Still, believe me when I say I still have the rumblings of an eco conscience. Today I went to two fancy dress shops in New York (I'm here as an election tourist), and felt really quite unwell at all the aisles crammed full of plastic use-once for Halloween tat. And then I bought a Cleopatra headress. I promise I will take it home and file it away for future fancy dress reference.

So, if you're wondering where I've gone, that's where I have gone. I'll be back.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Etsy eco: Allies Adornments

This week's Etsy eco is Allie's Adornments, from San Francisco. She makes one-off pieces of jewellery from 1800s buttons, collected from all over the world. Is it wrong that My Eco Self is somewhat swayed by the photographs as to which is my favourite? Clue: I love the pink flower in the bottom photo.

1800s button bracelet.

1800s button necklace

1800s button bracelet.

Laura Cahill's book vases and lamps

My Eco Self is very taken with these book vases and especially the standard lamp. They are the brainchild of designer Laura Cahill.

Books are notoriously difficult to recycle, because of the glue used in the spine, even though the Confederation of Paper Industries says that it is not impossible. What's your preferred method of disposing of old books? My Eco Self is going through a non-philanthropic stage, due to unemployment, and is selling old books secondhand on Amazon, rather than donating them to a charity shop.

I think that books are not necessarily that much of an ecological disaster (apart from the publisher's returns system, don't get me started) because most people keep their books and display them on their shelves to give off an air of intellectualism.

My Eco Self thinks that it is chick lit which is the greatest environmental liability. Keep this to yourselves, but in recent months My Eco Self has read Chasing Harry Winston and The Manny - but there is no evidence in my flat which would suggest so...Chasing Harry Winston was a throwaway purchase, read on the Eurostar between Paris and London and left behind on the train.

via Tea for Joy

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Rise magazine

This month's Rise magazine has an eco focus.

Check out my feature on the Hyde Farm Climate Action Network - it is a community group in South London which is really involved in lots of energy saving initiatives, including lightbulb libraries, draughtbusting and foraging for fruit on the local common. When I was interviewing Sue, one of the founders of the group, she had to excuse herself to answer a very cloak-and-dagger telephone call. I later found out why - Gordon Brown visited her house three days later!

I also wrote about my experience of joining Food Up Front.

Etsy eco: recycled crayons

There's no avoiding it, autumn has truly arrived. My Eco Self has unearthed my hot water bottle and I have turned my heating on, once or twice. I know I could conserve energy by wearing a few more jumpers, but I find it difficult to function when waddling like a Michelin man. Let me indulge myself just these few precious times, as an imminent gas bill is likely to kill off my desire to casually turn on the heating.

There are great things about autumn; indoor cuddles, a fire, cosy blankets, and these beautiful recycled crayons from Art2theextreme's Etsy shop. They look like so much fun for children to draw with.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Tooting Foodival

This afternoon My Eco Self and friends went to the Tooting Foodival. There was lots of local food in varying forms - apple crumbles made from back garden apples, urban honey, eggs from Deen City Farm, and curry from Poojas.

I've been a fan of Poojas for a long time - they sell 4 delicious samosas for £1. I tentatively went in there last week for the first time in a few years and with only £1 in my pocket; convinced that inflation and the credit crunch would have pushed up the prices. But no, still 4 samosas for £1.

The event was organised by local community groups Transition Town Tooting and Food Up Front.

I first discovered Food Up Front about a year ago, when they had 30 members and I wrote about them here. They are a scheme which encourages members to grow food in containers. Since then there's been a flurry of FUF activity - watch this space for an update on their activity coming soon.

My Eco Self recently signed up to be a member of Food Up Front, and enthusiastically planted my seeds in compost which I literally rolled home on a shopping trolley and in high heels. Technically, there is no sign of life so far, but this could be because:
a) My back door broke. While this may seem unlikely, it is actually true. I couldn't get into my garden for a week to water my container, until my friend Emma (ie Emma of superhero Emma with superhuman strength fame) opened the door with a casual flick of her wrist.
b) I went to Paris, not the perfect locale for carefully nurturing my seedlings.

Now I come to think of it, there really is no sign of life in my container. I've just remembered that not everything I planted was a seed; I planted a chard seedling, as documented in the photo above. It's gone AWOL, with not even a hint it ever existed. I'm sure the foxes are to blame.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

List progress

Progress on my list so far: none.

Except that I have been enthusiastically searching on Ebay for bargains. Further to my recent sales (for minimal results) I was convinced that there would be bargain purchases as well.

Where to start? There is just so much for sale, that it's almost impossible to narrow it all down. So I started searching by keywords of things I like; trees, hummingbirds, storms, swallows, Polaroids, black and white photographs. In my over-enthusiasm, I managed to buy a 2005 black and white photo of Green Park. 2005 is not exactly the vintage era I was aiming for. I lost out on Wedgewood hummingbird teacups, a cross-stitch of a hummingbird and an old hummingbird print. Do you notice a recurring theme?

Then I got a little bit carried away with shopping online, and bought a set of five spotted dishes from Lottie's Barn, like the one in the picture above. I am very excited about this new purchase, which of course is going to encourage me to use up all my leftovers and completely abandon any inclinations towards food waste.

Picture via Vintage Heaven.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Chateau Tooting

For those of you not already in the know, Tooting, in South London, is not exactly an area with the sun-streamed vineyards of Italy, South Africa, Australia, or well, anywhere warm.

Nevertheless, Richard Sharp, a local resident, decided to set up an urban community scheme to get his Furzedown neighbours growing grapes in their small back gardens, which were then pressed in West Sussex and turned into wine.

For the discerning sommelier out there, an English backyard might not sound like it has the likely credentials for a quality wine, but it's a great community scheme, and we're assured that the taste is improving every year.
There's a great interview with the founder at Rise Magazine, and if you're interested in running a similar urban scheme, there's lots of help and advice at their Urban Wine Company website.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Re-usable Bag dilemma

Ah yes, the re-usable bag again...I've just seen this post on Re-nest; apparently the Wall Street Journal just ran a piece which states (somewhat obviously, but with statistics) that if you have a re-usable bag, you need to use it a lot for it to be a more environmentally friendly than the normal plastic bag, as the cost to the environment can actually be higher than making a plastic bag if they end up in the landfill, unused and unloved. They take more energy to make and longer to biodegrade.

If you get the chance, have a listen to the podcast on the WSJ site - it's actually pretty interesting. I'm sure it must depend on the material used - if you're using recycled fabric to make your own bag, that has to be preferable to using a plastic bag.

I'm really wishing I had bought the yellow trolley bag in Paris.

Paris bicycles

Every few months, My Eco Self has a renewed desire to get a bicycle, but then I remember that I don't have anywhere to keep it, unless I want to drag it up my stairs, and, most of the places I go to I can walk to (I will never become a fully fledged bicycle commuter, I'm accident prone.)

I wish London had a scheme like the the Velib scheme in Paris. There are various bicycle stops around the city where you can pick up and drop off the bicycles - for a minimal fee. The bikes are great too - they have everything you need; a basket, lights, and locks. I saw lots of people using them, although it seems that French cyclists don't use helmets. People of France, that is a mistake! Although there are some allocated bicycle lanes, there still seemed to be some pretty risky manouvres going on - not least because cycling in high heels (as lots of the French women were doing) seems like a recipe for disaster.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

An eco-aspirational list

My Eco Self has decided to improve my eco credentials, so am setting myself a target by participating in Simple Lovely and Doobleh-Vay's list challenge.

This is my list of eco to-dos before the end of October. Warning: if you believe that I am some kind of eco guru (in which case I'd have to assume you are a new reader) - and are averse to having that image shattered, then look away now - there are some shocking revelations on this list...
  1. Check if my loft is insulated (shameful, I know, but it's really inconvenient to get into my loft - through a very high hatch - I've never been up there.)
  2. Use up all the contents of my organic vegetable box before the next one comes, at least once - so I don't have to always resort to Friday morning soup.
  3. Make one of Orangette's delicious banana bread recipes (with the collection of mushy frozen bananas in my fridge which I didn't eat in time - see point 2. Note: top tip - freeze them without the skins - or perhaps you all knew that already? Never occurred to me.)
  4. Do an inventory of all of the reusable bags I already own, so I don't feel tempted to buy another one...
  5. Become more serious about my food shopping habits, take my shopping trolley and try out the well-reknowned organic butcher, Chadwicks in Balham, near to where I live.
  6. Turn my thermostat down by one degree.
  7. Remember to water my rocket plants so that they don't die.
  8. Look on Ebay for some second-hand bargain furniture, the likes of which elude me but seem to feature regularly in the homes of celebrity stylists/designers/never your ordinary 5'8" in Living Etc.
  9. Put up the curtains I've lived without for 17 months (I know, how did it get to be so long?) - a major energy waster.
  10. Buy one of those energy monitoring electricity devices.

I could go on, and on - perhaps I'll update this list when I've achieved everything above - I want to keep it manageable...Please post your list below and I will feature any good resolutions (as long as the intention is sincere!)

Please stay with me...

As I do some work on the blog header....there's still some work to do so please don't desert me if you think this one is a bit much!

Yellow fever

My Eco Self took myself on an impromptu trip to Paris this week, feeling the strong call of the Paris flea market...Quick as a flash I booked myself onto the Eurostar and (I'm still trying to blank this bit out) into a youth hostel, as I couldn't find any last minute options under £300 a night.
These are my happy Paris feet - and as much as can be revealed for public consumption. I took one small rucksack, with only a few cardigans and clean vests, and I suspect I looked quite rough for a few days. As a last minute gesture towards Parisien chic, I threw in a lip gloss at the last minute, but I am not sure that was enough to pull me back from the depths of scruffydom. Lip gloss + towel-dried hair does not equal a chic Parisien look.

I managed to exercise great spending restraint and I only spent 28 euros on things for myself. It was so sunny in Paris that I felt myself drawn to this yellow Perigot trolley bag, but then I remembered I already own a shopping trolley so in my non-wasteful attitude I decided I couldn't justify getting another one.

I think this may have been a mistake. This one was really sturdy, whereas mine is a) very flimsy, so it's a real pain to pull along and b) not yellow! I think if you're going down the old lady trolley route, you might as well have a statement piece? Oui?

A Jungle tribute

Yes, another bag. This time, it's a collaboration between primologist Dr Jane Goodall and GANT - for this £8 purchase, available online, they will plant 25 trees in the Tanzanian jungle.
When I saw this bag I couldn't help think of fellow blogger The Jungle Fever...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Eco Fair Promotion

Enter 'balhameco' into the promotional code box at greenhands.co.uk and receive a generous 20% discount until the end of this month.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Green Hands eco-friendly manicures

Green Hands provided very popular manicures at the Eco Fair. A lot of the ingredients in conventional nail products are really very toxic - they sell very natural hand creams and formaldehyde-free nail polishes and oils. I especially liked the glass nail files - they look stylish as well as lasting for a long time.


My Eco Self is still impressed with my friend Alice's imagination in calling the teepee covered with tree pictures a 'tree-pee.' Thanks to Tactile Interiors, who provided it - they sell lots of children's play houses made of recycled cardboard, including forts, rockets, dolls houses and dens.

Eco Fair favourites

Thanks to everyone who helped with the Eco Fair yesterday. It was a really nice selection of stalls - here's a roundup of some of my favourite products: Reversible bandana bib from Mums Space - lots of lovely organic baby things, including bamboo baby wipes, and Fair Trade toys.

Rose moisturiser from Emaelle - all natural beauty products, made with essential oils.

Fair trade silver and copper ring from Akalico.

Chicken doorstop made from reclaimed fabric from Boutiko - lots of nice gift items, including a London A-Z with a recycled leather cover, and lovely cards.

Warning: non-eco digression

Apologies for the digression, but I was so thrilled when this link appeared in my inbox, that I feel I need to spread the word. I do so love the music ofIain Archer. This is a recreation of a rather touching moment at Greenbelt this year where he had his parents and parents-in-law get up on stage and sing with him.

One of my favourite songs of the last few years is Take That's Rule the World. I even heard it the other day when I was in a taxi with a Turkish taxi driver - and he was singing along with it as well. Anyway, the thing is that I was never into Take That the first time round - but now I absolutely love them.

Don't let that admission colour your opinion of me - but I just wanted to point out that I WAS into Iain Archer the first time round, and every time since - I've been listening to his music for more than half of my life.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Eco Fair Balham

My Eco Self has been organising an Eco Fair in Balham this weekend. There is a slight concern on my part that I won't master all these things in the next 24 hours:
  • learn how to make newspaper animals
  • cover my boring clothes rail in ribbon
  • become an expert in vintage costume jewellery
  • find a pretty cake stand to display my jewellery
  • wash those clothes which are at the bottom of my washing basket, and intend to sell on my stall
  • get into my back garden (my back door is broken) to cut some greenery to display in a nice vase on my stall
  • and there's more. Believe me, there's LOTS more

Still, I am very excited about the fair - there are lots of good things going on. Firstly, I am thrilled that Ellie Bethel is coming to give a reading. I love her book, Michael Recycle, and I think we're going to sell out of all the copies we have. My Eco Self is not jealous that Ellie had the idea for an eco-friendly children's book before Eco Bear and the Recycled Bicycle managed to find a publisher... Watch out for Ellie's sequel coming soon, Litterbug Doug!

Secondly, the manicure table is being sponsored by Green Hands. So much of what goes into nail products is really nasty stuff - so I'm delighted that Green Hands offer some greener options.

There's free breakfast too, from 10am - organic muesli provided by Rude Health.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


My Eco Self loves hummingbirds. I visited an aunt and her family in Pittsburgh this year, and I saw one - I was so thrilled. They have a special hummingbird feeder, which they fill with nectar - it's such a pity the British climate doesn't attract them.

I just saw this beautiful hummingbird flea market find at the eco-conscious Daily Danny. Inspired by him, I went on a trawl of my local charity shops, ever hopeful, but no joy. The US is definitely the land of opportunity in many respects - including flea markets. I've never had any luck in the charity shops here.

Photo by Danny Seo, via Daily Danny.


My Eco Self had fully intended to share with you all the boring intricacies of my new plan to spend only £25 per week. It was brought on by some work experience I've just been doing. I found myself back in a commute to work which I haven't done for over 2 years - looong way round on the slow train to London Bridge, then Jubilee line - because there's no way you're going to catch me on the Northern Line during rush hour, no thank you. I quickly found myself adopting the old routine of almost missing the train, and having a coffee and pain au chocolat on the way to work as I haven't had time for breakfast. Then, I felt like I needed a treat at lunchtime, so off I went to Pret every day....this is all while working for nothing.

So, as a penance, I decided I needed to live off a very strict budget for at least a month, before I go to New York as an election tourist. But somehow I haven't started yet. I just went to IKEA today on a different mission, and somehow I have come home with a brand new lamp, duvet set and pillows, baskets...ever since I read about IKEA's environmental policy, I haven't felt so bad about shopping there - if it wasn't for buying things I don't really need.

I am a person who can't live off a budget. But I am determined to try - starting after my brother comes to visit this weekend.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Moss graffiti

One of My Eco Self's favourite things is street culture, in particular breakdancing and graffiti. So far I've never made it to the B-Boy championships, and am not quite sure I'd fit in, but it's definitely on my list of things to do.
Thanks to Green Upgrader again, I've just discovered this amazing moss graffiti. The artist is Anna Gayforth and I thought this definitely looked like a California-inspired project - but no, it's in London! You can find out more at this site, Environmental Graffiti.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Orla Kiely Wottle

My Eco Self is still trying to get into the habit of keeping old water bottles, refilling them, and more importantly, actually bringing them with me when I go out, so I'm not forced to buy one at the kiosk at the Tube station (water could be essential to any number of Tube emergencies, so I do try to carry some). Not one to follow trends (who am I kidding? - I got my grubby unmanicured hands on that Cath Kidston Tesco bag as soon as I had the chance) - but I have always been a fan of Orla Kiely, and her various collaborations (I've still got a very nice vase she sold at Sainsbury's quite a few years ago, and her Butler's chocolates are yummy.) I remember seeing her house featured in Living Etc, and that was very stylish too, with a fabulous stripy fireplace.
Her latest collaboration is the Wottle water bottle for Brita. It's made from recycled plastic, and I think it is very stylish. There's an interview with her in today's Times.
My Eco Self is about to start living off a very strict budget, which I will detail here. But I think the official beginning of my budget will start just around lunchtime, just after I've sneaked onto the Brita website and ordered my Wottle. It is also available at John Lewis, and Ethical Superstore.

Repurposed Croc Planter

If there is one fashion trend My Eco Self can not stand, it is Crocs, a shoe of function rather than form. At the very most, they have credibility as gardening shoes, or I can make a small concession to their suitability as in-house footwear only, as they are lauded by podiatrists. It seems like everyone I know as a pair. Slowly, they creep into my subconscious as something acceptable and normal - but then I need to stand back, take a breather, and remember that they are hideous. I seem to be alone in thinking so (and don't even get me started on the Birkenstock) but I am going to stand firm in what I believe.

So, I was delighted to read this post by Green Upgrader, suggesting an alternative use for the Croc, as a vessel to plant in. It's time for the mass demise of the Croc, and what a good idea - those holes come in very handy. Still, not sure I would have one of these hanging in my garden, but hey, it takes all types to make a world. And I think this makes a beautiful picture.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Fair hand food

My Eco Self has just returned from an awards dinner. I had a great evening, and the food was reasonable - nothing spectacular, but also nothing at all to complain about.

On the way home, I was thinking about what really great meals I have had recently. And I realised that they have all been things which I or a friend have made myself, simple but delicious.

These are the top three contenders, which I know are going to stay in my repertoire for a very long time. They are all simple meals, but those which actually make you skip home a little faster in anticipation of what's to come, and arouse major feelings of food lust, an overwhelming feeling which makes you go a little crazy and ignore everything else until you've eaten.
  • Homemade granola (not the chocolate kind, I will post this recipe at some point - it is amazing) - Food Neurotic Friend and I shared a batch.
  • Carrot and lentil soup.
  • Lying low tomato sauce.

The other day, FNF texted me to say 'Silent Light - great film' - about a film we watched at Greenbelt two weeks ago and really enjoyed. Did you watch it again, I asked, when I remembered to mention it, but he said no, he just was making the point again that it was a great film.

These feasts are Silent Light moments - I'm inspired to text him now to remind him about the carrot soup. And I can guarantee that one of these days I'll get another text saying 'great granola.'

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Doorstep quality of life index

My Eco Self is now addicted to another website, Apartment Therapy.

I've been recently inspired by this post, where the owner of the beautiful house above says that in their renovation of their home, establishing a front garden was a real priority, as it improves the quality of life of everyone on the street. I never thought of it like that - my front garden is the very last thing on my list; in fact I haven't even weeded once, in over a year. Perhaps I need to change my attitude.

I have, however, signed up for Food Up Front, which encourages people to grow vegetables in their unused front spaces, partly because it encourages interaction with your neighbours. Unfortunately my front garden belongs mostly to my neighbour, who is not particularly interactive, so I'll be toting my compost and container to my back garden, and eating all the lovely vegetables I grow all by my very self. Or perhaps not - not because of my philanthropic vegetable outlook, but because I'll be amazed if anything actually manages to grows in my garden. The benefit of growing vegetables in your front garden is that you don't forget they're there..

My Eco Self is on Twitter

...become my friend!

Sustainable pets

My once green-enthused spirit hardened by the credit crunch, My Eco Self is beginning to find some green initiatives intolerable...

This is a dog house with a 'green' roof from Sustainable Pet - but perhaps it's just because I don't like pets - it actually looks quite nice. But, not claiming to know anything about animal behaviour, wouldn't a dog jump up on its roof garden?

I protest too much. I am back, embracing the green movement in spirit and in action - tomorrow I am going apple picking in some local back gardens. What a great idea! I can't wait.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Eco-friendly Night Owl wooden cards

Taking up the eco-design mantel, My Eco Self feels that I must mention these very cute wooden cards from Night Owl Paper Goods. Their eco credentials are that they are printed on sustainably forested yellow birch, using little water and power (I don't know how, you could email and ask.) Not quite as eco as an e-card, or even recycled card, but I'm pretty confident that if you are the recipient of one of these, you won't be chucking it away any time soon.

The above are an example of the difficulties of frugal living - I already have a whole stash of cards for every occasion, but I really feel I have to have these. I can see them now, propped on the mantlepiece in my spare bedroom, currently styled as vintage chic. There you go, a season of successful frugality ruined by a whim and a cute retro owl. Even the prevalence of holiday cards on their website isn't enough to put me off (one of my pet hates about the US is holiday cards; everybody - it's Christmas.)
I take it back. All fired up for a holiday card rant, a few months early, but in no way aimed vindictively at Night Owl cards, rather the state of the Hallmark nation in general, I quickly checked the holiday card section and they do have some Christmas cards. And very nice ones too.
Anyway, it looks like these are only available in the US, so that's my pursestrings saved for another day. But perhaps they should consider expanding, there's a whole market of card-stashers internationally, ready to part with cash they don't have on a late night shopping spree.
UPDATE: They do ship internationally - sorry! They're very popular in Australia, apparently.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Friday morning soup

My Eco Self made a particularly tasty Friday morning soup this week - it was a delicious carrot and red lentil soup. With my limited soup-making expertise, I've decided that lentils taste so much better in soup than potatoes.

Technically, Food Neurotic Friend made the soup. FNF did not endear himself to me when he ignored my instructions to use the old wizened carrots from my old vegetable box, having explained to him the premise of the Friday morning soup. Instead I came back to the room to find him merrily peeling the brand new carrots, having made his executive chef decision that fresh ingredients in soup make all the difference without consulting me.

Despite this altercation, not the best start to a weekend, it was a really good soup, one of the best I've ever had. I wish I had taken a photo to document this culinary delight. We added coriander and natural yogurt, and I added a cube of cold butter when I whizzed it in the blender (a chef's tip FNF learned on a cooking course to make your soup restaurant quality.) It was one of those meals where you take each spoonful gingerly, pausing to reflect, carefully considering just which of the ingredients it is that really gives it an edge, determining a theory which is then challenged by the very next mouthful. And so you begin again. In the end, you may conclude that it was the fresh coriander that did the trick.

Greenwash #2: Children's Face Paint

I've just been looking online for children's face paint which is eco-friendly and non-toxic. The only one I can find advertises itself as eco-friendly because of the following:
  • Manufactured in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice, governing the manufacture of cosmetic products.

  • Water-soluble make-up.

  • Skin colours are dermatologically tested.

I'm not sure this is quite enough to warrant calling it eco-friendly?

I also came across some recipes for making your own face paint with cornflour and food colouring. It sounds like a good solution if you are playing with children at home, but I'm not willing to take this on as an en masse solution - does anyone know a good brand?

Greenwash #1: Innocent drinks

My Eco Self has a friend with a theory that Innocent Smoothies will go bust sometime soon. His theory is that there will be a public backlash against smoothies after reports have shown that smoothies can have more sugar than Coke.

I'm not convinced - I just went to the Innocent Fete and it was a pretty lavish spread - not the type you'd expect if you had a mean-fisted accountant in a suit* trying to steer a troubled company back on the staight and narrow.

Still, they have suffered from some bad press recently, with The Daily Telegraph accusing them of greenwash - trying to enhance their reputation by exaggerating their green credentials. They said their fruit always travels by boat or train, and is produced in the UK, whereas in reality it is driven across Europe in tanker lorries and is blended on the Continent.

Shame on them! I'm going to boycott their products**, even though I haven't bought an Innocent smoothie this year. Although I have spent over £100 on a pair of shoes on many occasions (in my previous full-time employed existence) I'm pretty reluctant to shell out over £2 for a smoothie.

*I don't think Innocent accountants wear suits somehow. I applied for a finance job there once (didn't even get an interview - I thought I had the perfect criteria - they like people with quirky hobbies etc and I'd just taken tightrope classes.) It sounded like a great place to work.

**Until next year's Fete, when I may again try and ingratiate myself to Food Neurotic Friend in the hope he takes me to the VIP area.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Green speed dating

Inspired by My Eco Self's earlier brilliant idea of allotment dating, I am organising green speed dating for the eco fair.* Some seem reluctant to see the relationship between being green and speed dating. I have formulated some non-rebuttable solid arguments to demonstrate my point.

  • Two people living together is more energy efficient than one, and reduces food waste.
  • Meeting someone who lives locally reduces the relationship commute.
  • And the most convincing; people who are interested in sustainability issues may be more interested in sustaining a relationship?

* It's in Balham, South London, coming up soon, on 20th September.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Eco Fair

My Eco Self is organising an eco fair in my local area. I'm struggling for ideas for children's workshops - can anyone help? They need to be things which aren't too messy (not a water supply right beside the tables.) So far I have got a 'tree-pee' for them to decorate - any other original and brilliant ideas welcome.

New Cath Kidston bag

I have circumstantial advice that the new Cath Kidston bag is in the shops early. Ok, it came from Hippyshopper. Run, baby, run - they came out today.

What would Jesus buy?

At Greenbelt I also watched a Morgan Spurlock film, What would Jesus buy? It's a documentary which follows Reverend Billy, a bleached blond man with a mission and his own denomination, the Church of Stop Shopping.* Now, I don't know the doctrinal detail, but I think the idea is to make Americans think about the consequences of their consumerist society - both on themselves and on the people who make the goods.

Although there's not progression during the film, and I was a bit concerned how much his wife was 'directing' him, the film did quote some great statistics about consumer debt, and although there comedy act is unlikely to lead to widespread conversion, hopefully it will have made someone think about what they're doing before they open their purse.

*Do you think donations to this church are tax-deductible?

Greenbelt Green

Although this blog aims not to talk about religion or politics (although did I tell you I am going to New York as an election tourist?) I just want to mention a little more about Greenbelt. Greenbelt is an arts festival at Cheltenham Racecourse which has its roots in the Christian tradition. But lots of people with little or no faith go along, as there are talks about lots of things, and well-known musicians. This year we had Beth Rowley and Seth Lakeman, both of whom I really enjoyed. There is a really strong focus on social justice issues.

Festival highlights for me this year included:
  • Iain Archer, an old favourite, who won an Ivor Novello award for songwriting for Snow Patrol, and just had his track advertise Friends Reunited on tv - this is the song. I've been following his music for more than half my life...
  • Silent Light - a slow-moving but beautiful film about Mexican Mennonites which won the Jury Prize at Cannes 2007.
  • Simon Parke - an ex-vicar who has a weekly column in the Daily Mail about the characters he met while working in a supermarket for three years.

There were quite a few talks with an environmental slant; if you're interested you can order or download them online. This is one of them:

An Inconvenient Truth 2 by Andy Mellen.

"Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the car, increases in the price of food and fuel are causing concern here, and hardship around the world. How can we understand the underlying realities and face an uncertain future with hope?"

A question for all of us.

Eco achievements

My Eco Self's eco achievements this week have been quite impressive - highlights include;

  • eating leftover lying-low tomato sauce for four days straight. I made it again for a friend coming for dinner. I had good intentions of using up all my food waste too - the sauce calls for the onions to be discarded at the end of the recipe. I was making carrot and lentil soup with leftover carrots from my vegetable box, and the recipe called for tinned tomatoes and onions. So I thought I would just chuck in the onions from the sauce. This would have worked if I hadn't burned the lentils to smithereens.
  • not washing for four days. Not by choice, mind you - I have just returned from the Greenbelt Festival.

Festival food is somewhat of a challenge. My friend Ruth and I were camping, and I made an attempt at bringing my own food so that I wouldn't spend a fortune buying food from the stalls around. Well, deep in my heart I knew the call of homemade chickpeas with lemon juice and freeze-dried parmesan wouldn't resound that loudly with me...so I looked around for more appealing options. There weren't many. My favourite festival option is the Tea and Toast Van.

They serve Fair Trade and organic food, and it's all vegetarian and locally sourced where they can. I had to draw the line at the veggie-bacon option (it looked like a rather unpleasant mortadella), but the mozzarella and red pepper tapenade toastie I had was very tasty. Oh, and they have free fruit for kids. There were a few vans which sold organic burgers and sausages direct from their farm (a great idea for a farm to diversify like that, I think) - but on the whole I think sticking to vegetarian is the way forward at these events...

My Eco Self is definitely drawn to pastel-coloured vans. Remember Lola's ice-cream van? I still think selling food from a pastel-coloured van may be my culinary calling.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Boutiko sale

My Eco Self previously wrote about an online gift company, Boutiko, which sells pretty ethical, organic and Fair Trade gifts. They are currently having a summer sale. Below are a selection of items I like: Thank you cards, reduced from £8.50 to £7.50

Floral bag, reduced from £28.99 to £23.99.

Flocked floral album, reduced from £19.95 to £14.5o.

Time to stock up I think - birthdays and new babies seem to come around despite the credit crunch.