Ditch the Six and Make the Switch

I have been meaning to do this little home task for a while and I finally got round to doing it this week. I changed my energy supplier from one of the big six energy companies to a small independent eco friendly supplier. This winter just gone has seen a great deal of focus in the media on the problems of the largest energy companies that dominate the market, known as the big six, and it has been niggling me for ages to get something done and change my supplier. So I am going to walk you through my reasons behind it and why I think you should do the same.

Independence

Personally I believe that the energy companies should be nationalised as we all need gas and electric to warm our homes, cook our food and keep the lights on and believe it is something our government should provide rather than private companies. Those are my political views but the reasons behind me switching is something I think everyone should hear no matter their political persuasion.

  • The big six (British Gas, N-Power, EDF, Scottish Power, E-ON, SSE) owns 90% share of the energy market and have been subject to an inquire by the monopolies commission because this percentage means they can control the prices between them and thus have been accused making deals together to artificially inflate prices for their customers
  • The high prices affect those with pre pay meters the most as the unit price and standing charge are often higher and the ones who often have pre pay meters are the poorest within society.
  • They have blamed the rise in prices on green levies (see below) but if you look at their profits they are astronomical, if they cut their profits they wouldn’t need to charge people the amount they do.
  • As profits are all these huge companies care about then why should I trust them with something that is an essential part of my life and a substantial amount of my bills. I place more trust in smaller companies that have time for their customers

Big Six

Environment

As you probably are well aware if you read this blog often, I am very interested in protecting the environment through doing stuff in our own lives. It is part of humankind’s  problem whether climate change is our fault or not and I think that positive steps towards a more environmentally friendly economy.

  • Non of the big six have invested sufficiently in green energies and it is something I think we need to do as a country to help the environment. Green energies are very varied each with their own qualities and problems but with one uniting idea that we don’t need to burn away resources when their are other options.  I am not going to discuss their merits here but some of the major ones include: Solar, wind, biofuels, hydro power, anaerobic digestion and several less known but equally important ones.
  • Even though we are out of the recession there are still plenty of people in the UK and across the world without stable employment and investment in new green industries would provide thousands if not potentially millions of new jobs in just this country.
  • We need to avoid carbon based energy and nuclear power not only for the environments health but also our own. We will run out of oil and natural gas eventually and messing with nuclear energy has already proved that it can go terribly wrong.

Money

Maybe not everyone cares whether their energy is from a national or private company and i know many people doubt climate change but one thing I know most people will agree on is that they want to pay less for goods and services and want to save where they can

  • Green energies are always accused of being too expensive for ‘normal’ people and I can understand these reservations. All energy industries are expensive to set up, so when we start investing in green energy to start the prices will be higher but after time they will pay for themselves resulting in cheaper prices for all (I say this for the major two as the sun and wind are free commodities ….currently)
  • When I chose the company I wanted (Good Energy) I worked out the cost for both my current supplier and Good Energy on the average usage basis. In all fairness H and I probably use a lot less then most people but makes more sense for what the average is. Turns out that per year I would be £20 better off with Good Energy. Not a big difference but when you consider all the other factors why wouldn’t you switch.

I implore you to take a look at your current energy supplier and research the other independent ones to see if you could be making a difference to your bill and the environment at the same time. As a side note I am not affiliated with Good Energy they are the one I chose for their clear goals and straight talking about what everything costs (another problem I find with the Big Sixes websites). Take a look at the others too. Good Energy, EcotricityGreen Energy UK

Lorna

x xxx

Yes..Yess.YESSSSS

The name refers to a delightful set of hair products that make your hair super glossy, soft, vibrant and even give you an orgasm!…..Well i pretty much doubt that along with all the other claims that; Herbal Essences, Loreal, Elvive and any other of those multi-million pound corporation with a 6 figure marketing budget and Eva longloria as their front model make. The basic function of Shampoo is to clean your hair. The best advice i would give for general thriftiness is to buy a own brand product because it will clean your hair and will not cost £3 plus for basically the same product.

big brandsBut arn’t they better quality the more expensive they are?

-NO, is pretty much the basic answer. The more expensive they are the more chemicals seem to be added and that can’t be good for your hair or scalp. The product will strip away natural oils and build up on your hair, potentially making problems worse. As Pat Thomas wrote on the ecologist ‘shampoos amount to a kind of chemical warfare on your scalp’.

-Once again you are paying for the advertising and the shareholders horrific salaries when you spend that much on a product. If you looked at the  cost of mass producing these items you would find it extremely low compared to the retail price

-They don’t care about the chemicals they put on your body so why should they care about the environmental impact of their products or their packaging. Many of the big brands still use animal testing and their packaging is not recyclable by most councils in the UK

cruelty free shampooSo maybe i’ll go for the cheaper option, but will it be greener?

-Not necessarily, but some cheaper products are not tested on animals and have packaging that’s easily recycled. Check the labels on the product and if in doubt you can always ring their help line and ask. Check your recycle bins/center for what plastic your council recycle

-You could instead choose alternative products, many of which usual have the same price tag/more then the big brands but can be naturally made, free from animal test, vegan, organic or fairtrade. The Bodyshop has a wide range even though it is a big brand but Lush is my favourite for on the high street beauty without a terrible environmental cost simply because their products work. There are also brands that are stocked in health shops and online, like Weleda and Faith which are also really great natural products

– You can also think about packaging when buying an item, plastic that can be recycled, glass bottles(maybe a bit pricey) or no packaging at all. Lush sell  solid shampoos  just wrapped in a paper bag which you can reuse or recycle and their plastic packaging is recycled and you can give them back to them when your done for it to be recycled again. Pretty nifty.

Do you use any eco shampoo you’d recommend?

Lorna

X xxx

In The World: Earth Homes

If only i could live here

Now i would like to say that i am not an expert on Earth homes and know generally very little about their construction and maintenance but it’s a topic and idea that really interests me. So what is an earth home you might ask. Generally speaking it means a building that is not for living underground but for people to live with the ground. Most are constructed into a bank or covered with a thick layer of earth with one long south facing wall with plenty of windows. They have many benefits both environmentally and financially with little problems claimed. As green issues become more important on the political agenda, these homes seem a promising solution to the ecological problems associated with preexisting conventional homes.

 

Like an eco log cabin

The benefits

-Insulation: The mounds of earth covering them act as a blanket and their constuction means they are like air tight boxes so no drafts. It’s architectural shape means it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter
-energy and money saving- The insulation reduces heating bills. They are particularly suitable for using renewable energies.
-Protect the environment- they blend into the countryside, use up less green space then a above ground home, the mud roofs can all be planted on adding to insulation and provide you with a food source.
-Wind, Earthquake and fire protection- Their sloping construction and semi underground style means they are better protected from wind and earthquakes( though not a worry for everyone it doesn’t hurt to know) As most are built from concrete they have amazing fired protection.

bit to minimal for me

The Problems

-As they are sealed boxes essentially, humidity and therefore mould and mildew can be a problem. An air filter/dehumidifier could help with this
-Though very light at the front, rooms at the back and bathrooms tend to be dark. solution: Dome skylights or artificial lighting.

Considering these are the only problems significantly outlined by people it seems a minimal thing considering the two problems are both faced by many people in their current houses. We have a quite major problem with damp on some of our walls because of an external wall and our living room’s light tends to be dull except for in bright sunlight at midday. Therefore Earth Homes aren’t perfect but their pros far out weight the cons. If your considering building your own home and are worried about your eco footprint then this could be the option for you.

Lorna

X xxx

Lets talk about toilets

lets talk toilets

We all have to go to the toilet. FACT, but is it something we think about when it comes to our Eco credentials. We have heard about composting toilets and camping wild aided only with a shovel and disregard for cold bottoms but i could understand that not everyone want to poo in a hole in the ground nor wipe their behind with a leaf. Whats the problem with normal toilets i hear you say? Well, potential they can be quite sh*t!

loo rollSo what’s the problem?

-It can be a massive waste of water, 30-40% of household water is used flushing the loo, which can really top up if your on a water meter, plus it is just plain waste especially since in 2012 we had droughts throughout England

-Toilet paper is an everyday essential but the cost to trees could be huge if we don’t encourage recycled brands and tree replanting. Even recycled paper can be potentially bad for the environment as new wood pulp needs to be mixed with it if it becomes to filmsy (most paper can only be recycled 5-6 times as fibers weaken) and some pulp can come from damaging and sometimes illegal deforestation *

– Standard Bleach, limescale remover, toilet fresheners can all contain chemicals that can be both bad for the environment and for yourself. We all know that bleach can burn if you leave some on your skin, but its doubtful that any chemical product is good for your complexion and artificial fragrances have significant impact on pollinating insects as they get confused trying to find flower through these smells.

ecover toilet cleanerAny solutions?

-There are several water saving devises that reduce the amount used when flushing. Save-a-flush, The Hippo and The Interflush are some of the readily available device and this article from the Ecologist compares their benefits/costs among other alternatives.

– Recycled paper is best as it reduces landfill waste and the process is less intensive then virgin paper. However, look at the label and choose one that is made from paper waste not pulp and free from chlorine. Another rule being that the whiter and brighter it is the more chemicals and processes, so technically the browner the better. (please no jokes about second hand toilet paper)

– You can buy eco toilet cleaners and fresheners from all over now and cost the same as your big named chemical brands. Ecover is my fav green cleaning company. Better still you can make your own with household ingredients, Bicarb mixed with water can whiten and giver a shine, lemon is antibacterial and freshens and chuck a bottle of cheap sugary cola down in the bowl over night and it acts like a great limescale remover.

There we have it, just a few simple steps to take and you can feel nice and green next time you pop to the little boy’s/girl’ room. Have you ever thought about your toilet in this way or is it something we forget about because it is such an essential?

Lorna

X xxx

In the World: Michelle Reader

London based artist Michelle Reader delights us with colourful, mechanical style sculptures made from household and industrial waste, creating pieces for clients that not only are amazing realistic constructions but also weave a story by her choice of materials. She works with schools, galleries, corporate businesses to create outstanding pieces for displays and events. She also works as a freelance artistic educator as well as maintaining a personal portfolio of work

Michelle Reader, Elk

Most of her work, whether for galleries or corporate venues, has a strong environmental connection, as you might expect with an upcycling artist. She features many animals and figures in her work to discuss the effect we as humans are having on the planet. What interests me most however are the corporate commissions as it feels like a great step for big businesses to take, highlighting their own wastefulness, when they are often guilty of overlooking their affect on the world and focusing on profit instead.

Michelle Reader, BAA and Costa Coffee recycling initiative

There is no better way to describe the process then by the artist herself. In her arstic statement she describes the process and result of using these found objects in the creation of a family portrait.

‘The choice of materials can also be a key part of the story of a piece. In 2008 I created a portrait of a family made from a month’s worth of their own household waste. The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste each of us produces, but also tells the story of each individual through the things they discard – a child’s drawings, a shopping list, a birthday card. I try wherever possible to use materials that are reclaimed, things with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill. My sculptures draw attention to environmental issues in an aesthetic, humorous and non-confrontational way’

Michelle Reader, Seven wasted men, Cambridgeshire County Council

Though most of her work is commissioned based she does have some available pieces on her website and works with several galleries in London, putting on educational workshops As with all upcycling artists i am amazed at the range and imagination within each piece of work.  For more photos of her work and to see where more of her pieces are being displayed, visit Michelle Readers website

Lorna

X xxx

15 Uses: Plastic Containers

Plastic fantastic. Another installment of 15 uses brings us back to plastic recycling. This week its plastic containers from food or cosmetics and i know at one point i will also be doing a 15 uses: Plastic bottles. The themes for this one start with another classic recycling use…..duh duh dah!!!!!!! STORAGE. Standard but essential and there are so many different storage solutions available from upcycling waste. I also have 5 unusual uses with cut out plastic and 5 ideas for the fashionista who is green at heart.

5 Storage ideas

1. Stationary storage standard but i love the simple beauty of having coloured pencils all grouped together. This would be a great way of bringing in recycling to the classroom in a simple way.

2. No crafting needed, just find a deep plastic tray and you’ve got ready made craft storage!

3. Make tidying up more fun for your kids. Find deep plastic containers like detergent bottles and paint or cover in bright colours to make tidying up toys easy.

4. Cut out the top and holes for handles to make a quick weather proof peg basket to hang on your washing line. Remember line drying is better for the environment.

5. Though i would probably never have that many nails, you could use containers with handles to store all those little bits and bobs that are loose and can get easily lost. Paint and colour them to suite your rooms.

5 Unusual ideas with cutting out plastic

1. Use coloured plastic cut into circles and holed pieces to created a mobile or a door screen by stringing together the pieces with thread till you get the desired length

2. This is my favourite because it is so simple. Cut out a milk bottle as shown to create a shovel or dust pan. Brilliant, simple idea

3. Cut away part of a bottle with a hole at the top to create a drip tray for your barrel or juicer. Especially handy for parties so you don’t have to worry about spills and you can get on with enjoying yourself

4. Use lots of shaped containers and glue to a board to create a personalised office station for all your tools and stationary. Spray paint the finished result to create a matt look without the faff of a paintbrush in little nooks and crannies

5. A simple cut out shampoo or lotion bottle decorated with paper or fabric creates a perfect tidy way for a phone and its charger at a socket.

5 Ideas for the Green Fashionista

1. Cut out shampoo bottles with a little popper button attached to a flap to create a cute little coin purse.

2. This is a brilliant idea and can be adapted to make anything. Plastic can be shrunk in the oven to create strong plastic jewellery pieces. You can use marker pens to create a design on the plastic and punch holes in the thin plastic where it is needed. The plastic is then shrunk and creates a firm piece for you to add links to create a bracelet or a hook to create earrings.

3. More Shrink plastic ideas. These whimsical buttons could add charm to a boring cardigan or shirt. Remember to not place the holes too close to the edge as they could easily crack

4. One more shrink plastic. A simple necklace with a carefully cut piece and an added splash of colour, find some ribbon and there you have it.

5. Shampoo Bottles with the tops cut off and decorated with fabric or paper make lovely decorative wall organisers or could even be used to create a lovely flower display.

Plastic is extremely bad for the environment, so we should cut down on how much we buy, thinking about both the products we buy and the packaging. There are plenty of resources to help you getting to a plastic free life here http://myplasticfreelife.com/ but for many of us we still have lots of plastic in our homes so at least with the ideas above you can upcycle them when their first use is over

Lorna

X xxx