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.