Voting for a more Sustainable World

Political Parties as Beer Brands

I didn’t expect to have to write this blog post so soon. 3 weeks notice for a general election seems very, very short but I’ve read it was done to ‘preempt what would have been a likely government defeat in a confidence motion on minister for health, Simon Harris.’ Politics, eh?

We get told to make our vote count and to use it to wisely to give us the best chance of avoiding extinction, but how do we do that?

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Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
I’ll upload an audio version of this blog post in the next couple of days.
I came across the image used at the top of this blog on Rascals Brewing FB page

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I used to think that the best way to decide who to vote for was to look at each party’s policies, and when I started drafting this post it included a blow-by-blow analysis of each party’s manifesto and a report card for the government.  But I’ve decided that it’s a huge waste of my time, and yours. Thankfully there’s a much simpler way to find out who to vote for.

I used to be heavily involved in a political party and wrote and edited policy for them for 4 years. I strongly believe in the ability of good policy to move society forward –  but only if it’s implemented, and therein lies the problem. Time after time I’ve seen – and heard of – good policy being sidelined for political gain or one-up-man-ship. Often this is done by someone who prioritises their own advancement over the needs others, but fear not, they’re easy enough to identify when you know what to look for.

Narcissistic politicians hate being pinned down to specific answers; it prevents them from shifting position to suit the needs of the audience they’re wooing. Ask a direct question and watch them squirm. They also hate anything resembling actual work, particularly if it’s out of the limelight. They’ll be the ones that turn up to a litter pick right around the time the press photographer arrives. So ask them to do something specific for you. You’ll never hear from them again.

This might sound like a long arduous process, it’s not. It can be quite easily done by email. I always have a need to contact local politicians in my area between elections and it’s the perfect opportunity to work out who deserves your vote. I simply email my query or complaint to them all and wait for the responses.

If I no response at all, it’s means no vote.

If I get a wishy washy ‘thanks for your enquiry, it’s a very important issue, we need to do something about it’ response, I’ll politely reply and push them for a definitive answer or action plan. Usually they stop replying at this point so it’s no vote.

If I get a response with some real engagement and real answers, even if I don’t agree with them, I’ll save the email until the next election rolls around. Once it does I’ll open up the saved ones and then take a look at their track record and/or policies to make sure they’re not a complete lunatic. This doesn’t take long, primarily because so few politicians bother to follow up with their constituents. Out of the 7 councillors I emailed about a local matter last year only 3 took the time to reply and only 1 followed up with a second email.  Guess who’s getting my vote!

Now it’s too late for any of you to do that for this election. All the politicians will be on their best behaviour and replying to every email that pops into their inbox over the next 3 weeks. So what can you do to give yourself the best chance of picking a decent sod to help run our country?

My advice is to talk to people* that work in community groups and non-profits in your area, and ask who has delivered for them over the past 4 years. Politicians are great at promising, and do so at every turn, but promises won’t sort out homelessness, or the trolley crisis or the climate crisis. What we need is action, implemented by people with integrity, and you’re not going to find them flicking through the glossy brochures that arrive in your letterbox.

If you don’t know anyone working involved in a community group or non-profit, what the hell is that all about? You really need to question your priorities if you’ve put such a distance between those in need and yourself.

Voting is only one way to influence politics. What you say to canvassers has a huge impact on the direction policy takes. Believe me, politicians pay heed to what is said on the doors and that information is fed right back to head office.

The best thing to do is to pick 3 things to mention to any canvassers you meet and don’t worry about engaging in clever informed debate. Most canvassers don’t have the time for it and have been instructed not get embroiled in debates on the doors. Just focus on what’s important to you from your personal point of view. You’re the expert on your life so no need to have a wealth of data to back up your statements.

If you’re sick of having to drive 90mins to work because of poor public transport connections then say that.

If you’re angry that there is no tax on aviation fuel then say that.

If you’re frustrated at not being able to compost your food waste in your apartment complex, say that.

If you’re frightened by the Roundup being sprayed in your estate by contractors hired by the local council, say it.

If you’re annoyed that you have to feed your family food sprayed with chemicals because of the lack of support for organic agriculture, say that.

If you don’t understand why the government allowed manufacturers to keep microbeads in non-rinse toiletries, say it.

If you’re sick of seeing people running their engines when parked, including council vehicles, say it.

If you believe we should stop harvesting peat for commercial use then say it.

If you think single-use items should be banned immediately then say it.

If you’ve no choice but to buy food wrapped in plastic because supermarkets import it from half way around the world in order to maximise their profits, then say it.

If the sight of plastic election posters makes you want to scream, then say it.

Whatever rattles your cage, just say it! It’s the most sustainable thing you can do between now and February the 8th

Elaine

PS – If you like daily sustainable living tips and news follow me on Facebook and Instagram

* Before you start investigating; check if the person you’re asking is a member of a political party or related to anyone running. It’s not going to be an unbiased opinion if they are.

 

 

Review of Sustainable Living in 2019

Photo by Ivars Krutainis

Sustainable living has its ups and downs and I like to talk about both, because doing otherwise just gives a false view of the world which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. In this post I reflect on what worked, and more importantly didn’t work for me in 2019.

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Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
You can listen to an audio version of the blog post here.
Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

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Before I launch into my the full post lets me take a breath and wish you a very Happy New Year! Here’s to a new decade of sustainable living and if little birdies are correct it’s off to a good start. My segment on low-waste living for the programme Nationwide is due to air on Irish TV (RTE) this evening at 7:00, I’ll be mentioned in an article about sustainable living in the Irish Independent newspaper this Sunday, I’ve scheduled to do a sustainable living talk in the new zero waste store, The Good Neighbour, in Dublin 14 on January the 23rd and I’ll be on a Q&A panel at the Zero Waste Festival on Jan 25th in the Science Gallery in Dublin 2. And that’s just January!

So continuing with that positive note let’s start with our 2019 wins!
Researching the Circular Economy – Getting a chance to do a Masters in Product Design for the Circular Economy is a dream come true. It’s way more work than I expected and at times I struggle to keep my head above water but I’m loving the chance to drill down into sustainable design and policy and connecting with people working in the field.

Media appearances – I can’t believe how much media coverage sustainable living has received in the last year. About time too! During 2019 I gave talks at the Dublin Food Coop, Zero Waste Festivals, the Love your Home exhibit, the Airfield Food Festival, Bloom in the Park, spoken on 3 regional radio stations, was featured in The Irish Times and The Irish Independent, and appeared on the Claire Byrne Live show on RTE 3 times!

2000 Instagram followers – So thrilled to reach this milestone on Instagram. I know numbers shouldn’t matter but they do. I have to be a realist; companies notice numbers, the media notice numbers, the public notice numbers. With more followers I get a higher ranking from the algorithm, which gives me greater exposure, which gets me more followers, which exposes more people to info on sustainable living.

Friends – The best part of living a more sustainable life is the friends that I make on the journey. A shout out to everyone that I’ve been delighted to get to know in 2019. And an extra special shout out to my lovely patrons and supporters: you are all very dear to my heart.

Sustainable Gardening Course – I so enjoyed the free gardening course that I did with Aoife Munn via Dublin City Council in Herbert Park this summer. Having gardened for over 20 years, with a keen interest on biodiversity I didn’t expect to learn a lot. Boy was I wrong. I learned tonnes and make loads of great people to boot.

The Opening of Zero Waste Stores – We’ve done very well with new zero waste stores in Ireland this year. Close to me we have The Carrots Tail in D6, Veganic in D2, &Keep in Greystones, The Good Neighbour in D14, and finally The Source in D6. I’ve also heard of cult:zero in Meath and The Filling Station in Galway. For a full list of package-free stores in Ireland check out my Map of Eco Businesses in Ireland.

The Conscious Store & We Make Good – So great to see two ethical sustainable pop-up stores open in Dublin over the festive period this year.  My only regret is that they were only pop-up and not permanent. Hope that changes.

Sustainable Section of Craft Fair in RDS – Not only did we have a whole host of low-waste sustainable Christmas fairs throughout the country we also had a Sustainable Gift Section at Ireland’s larges craft fair ‘Gifted’

Eco and second-hand toys on the Late Late Toy show – For anyone outside of Ireland the LATE Late Toy Show is HUGE in Ireland and watched by almost all families. This year the focus was more on the children than the toys, which was lovely. It also featured second-hand toys for the first time and showcased some excellent eco-toys from Jiminy.

Sustainable Events – There was a whole host of sustainable events in Ireland this year, including but not limited to Zero Waste Festivals, Starting a Bcorp Movement in Ireland, Job Opportunities in the Circular Economy in Ireland, Business Opportunities in the Circular Economy in Ireland, Climate Finance Week, Climate Cocktail events, Global Climate Strike, Extinction Rebellion Protests.

Patch Plasters – Seems quite minor in comparison to the other things listed but still, often it’s the little things in life that give us joy. Very happy to report that these biodegradable plasters from Patch stuck very well to my skin and stayed there even when exposed to water. They don’t stick well to one another so if you’re wrapping a plaster around your finger then cut off the excess or it’ll flail around.

Eggless Cupcakes – Very happy to report that using linseed meal (ground up linseeds) works really really well in lieu of eggs in cupcakes / fairy cakes. I haven’t the nerve to try it on full blown cakes yet but so far so good. I just grind some linseeds using the attachment on my food blender, mix 1 tablespoon with 2 tablespoons of water and leave sit for 5-10 mins, then use in place of 1 egg in the mixture.

So that was all the ups for the year, now the downers!
Fresh Yeast – I bought this as an alternative to the dry yeast I buy in a metal tin with a plastic lid in my local Supervalu. The fresh yeast I bought came in greaseproof paper in a local polish shop. To be honest I just found the hassle of pre-cutting the fresh yeast into usable portions for freezing just didn’t justify any potential saving in packaging. Plus I needed to travel to get it, it’s heavier than dried yeast, and needs to be refrigerated – meaning more emissions from transportation and storage, and it needed to be left work for 15mins before adding to the dough mix, which was a pain.

Homemade Dishwasher Powder – Although the DIY dishwasher powder we made worked well, it didn’t work as well as the proprietary one by Winni’s. Also I wasn’t able to buy all the ingredients package-free so it kinda defeated the purpose of the exercise. Now that we’ve more zero waste stores I could make it package-free but honestly I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle. You can find the recipe we used for DIY dishwasher powder here.

Water Only hair washing – As you will have read in a recent post, this didn’t work very well for me, but I’m glad I did it because it help the overall condition of my hair and helped me better understand how to take care of it going forward.

Roasted Chickpea snacks – I’ve seen oven roasted chickpeas touted as great low-waste snacks on lots of social media feeds so decided to invest the 30mins of oven time to roast them one evening. Verdict: Meh! Not worth the electricity in my opinion.

Dried Apples Rings – A great way to make use of a glut of apples but when you consider that it takes approx 4000 watts in a standard oven to dry out the apple pieces over 2 hours I’m not convinced it’s the most sustainable way for us to deal with left over apples.

DIY Mosquito Deterrent – This summer I invested in Lemon Eucalyptus Oil to blend with almond oil to make my own mosquito deterrent for use in Ireland and in Italy. OMG, what a disaster. I was eaten alive. Added to that I was as slippery as an eel and couldn’t go in the sun for fear of burning. The concoction also stained everything, smelled awful and burned my skin slightly on contact. I should add that the shop-bought mosquito repellents we got were equally ineffective. The mosquitoes in Italy don’t carry any dangerous diseases so I was willing to give it a go. If you’re travelling to a place with life-changing mosquito born diseases take professional advice. You can read all about natural insect repellents here.

Garlic Spray – I frequently see recommendations to spray plants with garlic-infused water to deter pests and fungus and as a foliage tonic so I gave it a go. I steeped a clove of garlic in a litre of rain water for 2 weeks and then diluted the resulting ‘tea’ 1:10 with rain water. I sprayed my plants with this mixture once a week for 4 weeks and nothing! No visible difference in leaf health or nibbled leaves. All I got for my trouble were stinky hands!

Milk Spray – As with the garlic spray I heard that spraying leaves with milk helps prevent mildew on plants. Well would someone please tell my cucumber this. Despite my best efforts my poor plants succumbed to wave after wave of mildew during the growing season.

Buying in Charity Shops – I’m really sad to have this in the down category this year. Prior summer everything was great and I found lots of stuff but since September I found very, very little of any interest in charity shops. I don’t know if it’s because more people or buying from charity shops or rehoming stuff via resale or freecycle groups / websites or that there’s just less good quality stuff to donate. I’m going to have to see how things go in the new year and update this blog post if things change.

Making Kombucha – My first forage into diy kombucha didn’t fair very well, and I ended up with vinegar after 7 days of fermentation. To be honest I think the scobie I used wasn’t as fresh as it needed to be. I might give this a go again but I’ll need to check I can consume 600ml of kombucha a week before I do.

Conker Laundry Liquid – I gave this another go this year after learning of a new recipe, but despite the new recipe the results were the same as before. Meh! Read my updated blog post on Conker Laundry Liquid: The Verdict for more info

Eating less meat & dairy – We started well and managed to reduce our meat-based dinners from 7 to 4 a week, but I think that’s probably going to be our limit for now. My family’s food sensitivities are making it very challenging to come up with more vegetarian dishes that we’ll all eat and now that I’m in college it’s gone from difficult to impossible. My own intake of meat and dairy is fairing going down but i really have to start exploring other non-processed vegan alternatives to dairy in the New Year.

Carrying Reusables – Starting college has really challenged my commitment to using reusables. It’s so much easier to pick up a single-use food container or coffee cup and dispose of it when done than to cart what you need in and out everyday. But I do it all the same because despite the hassle using single-use items is just not something I’m willing to do anymore.

Hydrogen Peroxide for stain removal – This was another tip I read on sustainable living blogs but despite it’s low-impact on the planet I found it to be no better than soap and water on stains and for me, not worth buying. Check out my post on sustainable laundry for some stain removal tips that do work.

DIY Mascara – After getting yet another recipe for homemade mascara I gave it a go but alas it was a terrible as the previous attempts. You can read all about my DIY mascara trials here.

Growing Strawberries – I’m giving up. I’m waving my white flag. Squirrel you have won! Or have you? Considering I’ll be rehoming all my strawberry plants now you’ve actually lost!

New Years’s Resolutions
I know a lot of people hate new year resolutions. I love, love, love them. I like planning, I like improving myself and I like an (achievable) challenge. Bring it on I say!

My New Years’ resolutions for 2019 were

  • Make/ customise own clothes – college has required me to put a pin in that
  • Keep testing recipes for homemade mascara  – see above for how that went
  • Source more sustainable ethical foundation – happy to report I found it in V Claire in D6
  • Try washing hair with water only – see above for how that went
  • (Finally) start a new business – I started on this but college has required me to put a pin in that
  • Support Irish growers of chemical-free cut flowers – managed to buy teachers’ end of year gift from The Flower Field

 

For 2020 my New Year’s Resolutions are

  • Eat vegan / plant-based for 70-80% of the time
  • Practice gratitude – apparently it’s one of the quickest ways to endow a sense of happiness.
  • Get comfortable disappointing people, including myself – there’s a blog post in this one, but in summary the modern world is too demanding and if I want to sleep and spend time with loved ones I have to purposely do things to a lower standard than I’d like. I find it very frustrating and I’m practising being at ease with it because there is no alternative.

 

Thanks for reading

Elaine Butler

PS – If you’d like, you can also read my review of 2018 and my review of 2017 and remember to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more regular update.

Healthy Materialism

 

This is my last post before the big day so Happy Christmas to each and every one of you. Thank you sooooooo much for your support over the year, particularly those of you that share my posts or support me with donations.

I’m delighted to tell you that, after a very long wait, the segment on zero waste living that I recorded with the TV programme Nationwide is due to be aired on January 3rd. When we filmed the segment in July it was the hottest day of the year in Ireland, so you’ll see me melting my way around Rathmines, Dublin 6 buying second-hand goods and package-free groceries.

How things in the zero waste world have developed in less than 6 months! We now have a dedicated zero-waste store with a huge selection in Rathmines called The Source, which you can see photos of on my Living Lightly in Ireland Instagram account.

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Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
You can listen to an audio version of the blog post here.

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If you follow the Living Lightly in Ireland Facebook page you will have been subjected treated to a plethora of posts on how to have a sustainable Christmas, so I’m not going to do another Christmas related post this week. Instead I’m going to give you a little homework for the festive period. (Cue groans!) There’s actually a great deal of satisfaction to be had in this homework. It may involve you learning a new skill, and it will give you a chance to practice patience and healthy materialism.

Did the end of that paragraph catch you by surprise? Why on earth would a zero-waster be espousing materialism? Materialism gets a bad rap in our overdeveloped world and often the criticism is warranted. When we typically use the term materialistic we’re referring to individuals that prioritise the pursuit of material goods over all else, like an alcoholic and their next drink. At its core, materialism is about the valuing of goods, and for those of us that practice healthy materialism that translates into cherishing and caring for the items we own. For me it’s not the items themselves that are flawed but more how we relate and value them.

There are three steps towards healthy materialism

  1. Buy better
  2. Take care of what we own
  3. Repair over replace

 

Buy Better
First things first; always borrow, re-purpose or buy second-hand before buying new. And if you’re unsure why read my post on sustainable shopping! If you still need to buy new then aim to buy

  1. Objects made from materials that are infinitely recyclable, i.e. glass or metal or compostable (not biodegradable) at the end of their life.
  2. Objects made locally from local sourced materials.
  3. Objects sold locally from a ethical retailer that is doing their best to lessen their impact on the planet.
  4. Objects that are long-lasting and repairable.

 

It’s the last point that I want to elaborate on in this post. One of the hardest tasks on my zero waste journey was finding a way to sustainably dispose of all the broken and non-repairable goods I’d accumulated over the years. I now do my best to avoid allowing flimsy items into the house in the first place. It’s not always clear which objects are longer-lasting and repairable, plus we want our items to look good as they age too so here’s a few tips on what to look for.

  • Look for a long warranty. Companies that offer a warranty are invested in making the item last in the first place.
  • Check the availability for spare parts online before purchasing. A company that sells spare parts are showing their commitment to reducing waste and making goods last.
  • Check if there is a repair service in your area. This might be through the company directly, as is the case with Patagonia and Levis or through a third-party like an independent repair company.
  • Look for extra buttons on clothes. It’s a sign that the maker expects the garment to last a while.
  • Avoid jumpers with signs of pilling. It’ll only get worse as time goes on.
  • Synthetic fibre jumpers are useless at keeping you warm, so opt for natural fibres if that’s what you need.
  • Avoid jeans that have a high percentage of elastane in them i.e. stretch jeans, as they will lose their shape quicker than others.
  • Jumpers with tape on the shoulders will hold their shape better.
  • When buying suits buy two bottoms, as they’ll wear out quicker.
  • In general the thinner the fabric the less well it’ll wear over time.
  • Leggings with deep waistbands will be more comfortable to wear.
  • Check the transparency of leggings before buying. I’ve seen enough buttocks flashing through thin leggings to last me a lifetime!
  • Partially-lined trousers are a sign of quality. In fact lined-anything can be a sign of quality.
  • Beware of painted finishes on anything. They wear off very easily making the item look tacky.
  • Synthetic finishes wear less well than natural finishes.
  • Shiny finishes wear less well than matt finishes and varnished or lacquered finishes are harder to repair than oiled or waxed finishes.
  • After buying shoes bring them to a cobbler / shop repair person straight away to see if they can be resoled and re-heeled. If not bring them straight back to the shop for a refund, explaining why when you do.
  • Avoid fabric shoes with thin soles, like pumps. The sole is too low to protect the fabric from wear and tear and they’ll look like crap in no time.
  • Love your Clothes have guides on how to buy the best quality clothes.

 

Take Care of What we Own

Home
The most damaging thing to buildings is water so check your gutters and roof annually. It’s also a good idea to clean out your gutters before the winter so make sure they’re working fully.

Ventilation is a home’s best friend. If you’ve mould in your home it’s down to poor ventilation of moist air. Install quality extract fans in kitchen, bathrooms and don’t dry wet clothes indoors.

Use good quality mats to stop dirt from being tracked into your home and damaging your floors or take shoes off once inside the door.

Prevent sunlight from bleaching fabrics, carpets and rugs by keeping the blinds down or curtains pulled on really sunny summer days. (In Ireland? we wish!)

Furniture
Do not use silicone-based furniture polish like Pledge and Mr Sheen! As part of research for my Masters I learned that the silicone penetrates the timber making it impossible to repair / refinish in the future.

Don’t leave plastic furniture outside for extended periods. They’ll degrade quicker if left exposed to  sun and rain.

Invest in pressure-treated timber outdoor furniture or repaint metal or wooden furniture annually to extend it’s lifespan.

Cars
Keep your tyres at the right pressure. Not only does it reduce fuel consumption it helps your tires last longer.

Appliances
Hoover out the filter at the back of your hairdryer to prevent the motor burning out from lack of air-flow.

Replace the filter pad in your hoover every time you change the bag to keep air flowing to the motor.

Remove the batteries in appliances or toys that are being stored for extended period of time to prevent damage from battery leakage.

Aim to deplete a devices battery completely before recharging if possible, and turn off the device when charging if you can.

Shoes & Accessories
Clean your shoes regularly. Dirt can act as an abrasive against seams, weakening them over time. A damp toothbrush dipped in bicarbonate of soda is a great way to clean white shoes or runners.

Polish your leather shoes weekly with a nourishing silicone-free polish. Don’t use spray polishes or ones that dry to give a coating on the material. Leather needs to breath and so wax-based polishes that you buff to a shine are best.

If your leather shoes get wet don’t put them on a radiator to dry out. Direct heat is not good for leather so instead stuff them with newspaper and place them in a warm place to dry out slowly.

Make sure to re-heel and re-sole BEFORE it’s needed. A stitch in nine and all that I’ve boots on the go for decades because of this.

Feed leather bags with a nourishing cream 1-2 a year.

Clothes
One of the easiest ways to care for your clothes is to wash them less. If you’re the type of person that washes their clothes after every wear, STOP. Unless you’ve been sweating there really is no need and it wears clothes out and everytime you wash synthetic clothing you’re putting tiny pieces of plastic (microfibres) into our waterways. Not only does this pollute our oceans and affect marine life, it ends up going into the food and water we consumer. Depending on the weather and my level of activity I can get 3 or 4 wears out of something before washing it. If you’re concerned about smells just hang the clothes up somewhere airy after wearing to allow them breathe. Give it a go, what have you got to loose?

Iron dark clothes on the reverse to prevent shining

Hand wash bras.

Avoid wearing bras two days in a row in order to let the elastic rest. I’m told this helps them last longer.

Don’t put elastane or Lycra near direct heat, i.e. radiators or tumble dryers, as the heat damages the fibres.

Avoid using fabric softner with elastane or Lycra. It shortens it’s lifespan.

Use wider hangers on jumpers and jackets to help maintain their shape.

Wash clothing that pills in net bags in the washing machine to reduce abrasion.

Close hooks and catches before putting in the washing machine to prevent snagging, or wash garment in it’s own mesh bag.

Treat stains as soon as they happen, or as soon as you can. Visit my blog post on sustainable ethical laundry for tips on stain removal.

Repair small holes & tears as soon as you can. After all a stitch in time save nine!

Repair over Replace
One of the most sustainable acts you can do is to repair what you own instead of replacing them. Over the proceeding decades a lot of people in Ireland have lost the skills and interest in repairing – something I’ve noticed hasn’t happened in other countries. The move away from a repair culture has resulted in a loss of a lot of businesses that relied on the professional and hobbyist repairers like DIY shops, cobblers, and furniture restorers.

I appreciate that a lot of goods are designed not to be repaired and really the only thing we can do is to avoid buying them and pressurise our politicians to expand the recently introduced ‘Right to Repair’ legislation to offer spare parts and instructions beyond professionals and to owner of the goods themselves. For items we can repair her are some tips.

Furniture
If you notice a whitish bloom on a wooden surface it’s most likely water damage. The easiest way to remove water marks from wood is with an iron and a tea-towel, as show in this guide here.

Sometimes the legs of your furniture get marked from hoover head etc. To hide the blemishes simply rub with whatever natural oil you have in the house; sunflower, olive or rapeseed. Remember to buff the wood after oiling to remove stickiness.

Appliances / Toys
I love the movement Right to Repair. They are fighting for our right to be able to repair what we own and they have very useful guides on their website for all manner of devices.

I’ve bought replacement parts from The Hoover Centre in Dublin 6 and Kenilworth Electrics in Dublin 6.

You can also check out spare part websites like

 

If you need a new part and the manufacturer doesn’t sell them consider printing one for free at your local library. Some of the larger libraries have 3D printers and you can source the part from websites like Thingverse.

If you need to fix something plastic and traditional glue isn’t cutting it consider trying Sugru, a mould-able glue or Bondic, a plastic welding solution. Sugru is made in Ireland and and has hundreds of uses, which you’ll find it you search ‘sugru life hacks’ on Youtube. I’ve haven’t Bondic myself so would be keen if anyone has experience of it.

Shoes
If your shoes are scuffed beyond belief then consider buying leather dye from a quality shoe repair company. It’s easy to apply and although it will need retouching every so often ll make them look like brand new.

Clothes
In my experience the cheaper the garment the more frequently it needs to be repaired, and that’s if it can be repaired at all. The seam on some items are so skimpy that it’s impossible to fix a ripped seam. Go through your wardrobe and do an audit of your most worn items. Here’s a list of some of the most common repairs and links to some step-by-step tutorials where possible.

Sewing on a button. If you notice a button is getting loose better to remove and reattach than risk losing it on the street someday and then having to search for a replacement.

Securing a seam that’s unravelled (sewing outside) and (sewing inside). You’ll need to use a backstitch to do this.

Replacing an elastic waistband that’s no longer stretchy. I do this all the time in pyjamas. This tutorial shows the removal of the old elastic before putting in the new elastic but sometimes the old elastic is stitched in place and it’s not possible to remove it. In this instance I simply leave the old elastic in place and just feed a new piece in to sit along side it. Works for me!

Taking up jeans but keeping the original hem

Taking in the waist of trousers with no sewing machine.

Repair a dropped hem.

Shaving pilling or fuzz off knitwear. Years ago I invested in an electric fabric shaver. It is amazing good at removing the little balls that accumulate on soft knitwear, making it look as good as new. A low-energy version is a sweater comb, which you can pick up in a lot of supermarkets.

Here’s a video on how to repair a hole in a knitted jumper.

I haven’t tried this but apparently spraying cold water and vinegar on water stained leather helps to remove the stains.

Use white eraser on suede to remove scuff marks

Fix a zipper that’s stopped closing.

Replace the slider on a zipper. I’ve bought replacement sliders in WM Trimmings on Capel Street, Dublin 2

Have a dying party to refresh dark clothes that have lost their intensity. Clubbing together with friends can make the whole process more fun and more efficient.

The website Love your Clothes also have tips on how to care and repair your clothes.

Here’s one of those uber addictive Clothing Hack Videos and another specifically for Maternity Clothing

Tools – The great thing about repairing tools is how few tools you need. A simple needle, thread and scissors. A thimble can come in handy for pushing needles through stiff fabric and you can pick these up in a lot of charity shops or get one in a Christmas cracker. I would suggest investing in a spool of black and white thread as these are the colours you’ll use most often. Ideally match the thread to your fabric, which means cotton thread for natural fabrics and synthetic thread for synthetic fabric. I’ve sourced organic cotton thread on a wooden spool and recycled polyester thread if you want to go all out eco. For coloured thread the easiest way to avoid all those plastic spools is to buy a thread plait with a range of colours on it.

 

A Helping Hand
Repair Cafes
These are relatively new to Ireland but are becoming increasingly popular. They are generally run by community groups and differ from standard repair services in that the owner of the broken item is expected to participate in the repair so they can learn how to do it themselves going forward. I’ll always share information on repair cafes in Ireland on the Living Lightly in Ireland Facebook page so follow me there if you want to go to one.

Professional Repairers
I’ve always had shoes repaired but very little else up until a couple of year ago. Now I’ve bought replacement parts for our Miele hoover and Kenwood blender, had very good upholstery work carried out by Mia Upholstery in Rialto, Dublin 8 and had my leather bag restitched by high-end leather repair company Issac Jackman in Dublin 2.

The directory Repair My Stuff is a great place to find a professional repairer.  I’ve also listed a few companies on my Map of Eco Businesses

So over the festive period dig out all those unloved items in need of a bit of TLC and get gluing, polishing and darning.

Elaine Butler

‘No Poo’ and Sustainable Hair Care – Updated 24th Dec 2019

I’ve managed to streamline my skincare down to just water and a cotton flannel followed by some almond oil for moisturiser at night or Day Solution moisturiser by Green People, which is 88% organic for daytime. It’s the simplest and most effective skincare routine I’ve ever had and it’s cheap as chips. My transition to this skincare routine was seamless and stress-free, which is something I can’t say about my hair care.

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I’m not mean, I’m green!

Second Hand Furniture

This blog post was born after I was called ‘tight’ (Irish slang for mean with money) in a Freecycle group for asking for something inexpensive.  The rude commentator expressed amazement at my request for an item that could be bought for €5 in a shop. I explained that I only needed the item for 2 hours and that I avoid buying new items for environmental reasons, so she suggested that the item could be cut up and used as rags after it’d be worn. I said it would be better for me not to buy one in the first place, to which she replied with the terms, ‘tight’, ‘mean’, ‘tree hugger’ and ‘get a grip’. Her comments were eventually deleted by moderators but it got me thinking. Why the strong reaction to my post? And why did her response fill me with shame?

I sought feedback from members of the Zero Waste Facebook Group and it seems my experience wasn’t a once off. People reported being mocked as misers for buying pre-owned by friends and family. Even radio presenters had been heard ridiculing the practice of buying second-hand on the radio. What’s the deal, why are some people so reactive to the idea of buying second-hand goods?

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