solar power solar panels powered energy save saving sustainability sun sustainable

Using Solar Power – save money and live sustainably

Sustainability, Thrifty

Solar power is an important natural resource that we can use more often, as we embrace a thrifty and sustainable lifestyle.

solar power solar panels powered energy save saving sustainability sun sustainable

Solar Panels absorbing the sun’s energy

You don’t need to know a lot about solar energy to make the most of it and you don’t need to spend a fortune. There are solar panels for every budget – they sell them in Poundland (yes, they cost £1).

The sun’s energy is unlimited and free to use. Did you know that the amount of solar energy that hits Earth in one hour, is equal to the amount of energy used in one year by our entire planet!

Imagine if we could get better at harnessing all that free, environmentally-friendly energy. We could be using it to power all of our gadgets, to heat our homes, or to fuel our cars. Things would be very different, bills would be much cheaper and our planet would have a healthier environment for longer.

Turning sunshine into electricity

We can collect some of the sun’s energy using PV (Photovoltaic) cells. PV cells allow the photons of light in sunshine, to excite the electrons in the PV cell and cause them to flow – which generates electricity. PV solar panels are the ones that you see used all over the world to help to power homes and communities, they also help to power street lamps and parking meters. Lots of the surplus electricity created by PV solar panels is fed back into the national electricity grid for everybody to use.

Solar panels will soon be much cheaper

There are new developments in solar panel technology which will increase the effectiveness of the panels and also make the panels much cheaper – which is fantastic news.

An Australian company called Dyesol are developing a new version, the Perovskite Solar Cell, which should be available commercially from 2017.

If you would like to read more about this technology, Wikipedia do a great job of explaining it all here: Perovskite Solar Cells

Making money from Solar Panels

You may have noticed that more and more houses in your local area (with a south-facing roof) have solar panels.

roofs with solar panels solar power sustainability energy saving alternative

Households making use of free solar power

These lucky homeowners will not only be benefiting from free, sustainable electricity but they are also able to sell any surplus electricity back to the national grid, for a nice chunk of extra income each year.

The initial set-up can be expensive (£5,000 – £8,000), although there are government schemes in place to help with the cost. Solar Panels should be considered as a long-term investment.

The government have recently reduced the amount of money that you can make by selling your surplus electricity in the UK, but let’s all hope that they see sense and make alternative energy an attractive option for everyone.

There is a really good Money Saving Expert article about making money from Solar Panels here: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/free-solar-panels

Also, Which have a great overall guide which breaks down different Solar Panel options: http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/how-to-buy-solar-panels/

If solar panels on your roof are not an option, why not look into all the other ways that you can use solar power to save money on your energy bill.

Solar Power in the home

There are many ways to use the sun to create free electricity in your home, each way will save you money in the long run and will help the environment. Why not search the internet for a solar-powered phone charger, tablet charger or a laptop charger. Use solar-powered fairy lights around your window or use solar panel garden lamps. There are a few suggestions at the bottom of this post.

For a very simple way to use the sun’s energy instead of paying for electricity… dry your wet clothes outside in the sunshine, instead of using a tumble dryer.

Sun oven

Solar power cake in a solar oven sun energy solar power powered cooking

Baking a cake in a solar oven

If you fancy a DIY project with a difference, why not have a go at creating a sun oven – a way to cook food using the power of the sun. This is definitely a project for a hot and sunny day!

Here are the step-by-step instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-and-Use-a-Solar-Oven

There are so many ways to use the sun to save money on your energy bill and to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Why not google ‘using solar energy’ or ‘solar power’ or ‘renewable energy’ or ‘alternative energy in the home’ to get more inspiration.

Please feel free to share your solar-powered or alternative energy tips in the comments section below.

 

How will you start using solar power?

Solar powered fairy lights for garden outdoors lighting Solar power motion security sensor light Solar power phone charger laptop charger solar panel devices charge solar power phone charger portable charger
Solar power off grid lighting solution solar panel lighting Solar power garden lights pack of six solar panel lights solar powered fan and desk light solar panel lighting

 

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Repair Cafe by Ilvy Njiokiktjien Creative Commons-CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=24316530

What is a Repair Cafe? – Sustainable skills

Free, Making & DIY, Sustainability, Thrifty

What is a Repair Cafe?

A repair cafe is a free meeting place, where people can bring along broken possessions to be fixed by a group of local volunteers. The volunteers have experience in repairing all kinds of items from furniture, clothes and bikes to electrical goods.

Repair Cafe by Ilvy Njiokiktjien - CC BY-SA 3.0 - Regeneration Cafe sustainable skills fixing DIY mending Repairing

Learning how to repair brings communities together

Repair cafes encourage communities to reduce waste and save money by maintaining and repairing, rather than throwing stuff away and buying new.

Many repair cafe initiatives also encourage visitors to work side-by-side with the volunteers to learn how to repair their own possessions. The idea being that the visitor can fix it themselves next time and teach others to do the same, passing on the knowledge and the learning of basic repair jobs.

Repair cafes have lots of useful tools and materials provided and, as well as encouraging a sustainable and thrifty perspective, it is a great way for  communities to get together, over a cuppa, and strengthen bonds.

Why repair?

Lots of items are thrown away needlessly every day, these items are often easily repaired. Sometimes people don’t realise that the item could be repaired, or it may be that the knowledge of how to repair the item has been lost.

By RaMa2016 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46595423 Repair Cafe Repairing sustainable thrifty

Save money – repair rather than replace

Learning how to repair an item yourself is not only a great way to save money and help the environment, but you also gain a real sense of achievement and self-esteem, as you apply a newly learned practical skill to fix your item.

When things are used for longer and are not thrown away, it reduces the amount of raw materials and resources needed to make new items. For example, harmful CO2 emissions are reduced and the energy that it would take to create, transport and sell a new product is saved.

As well as resident repair experts, lots of repair cafes also have books and leaflets available, which detail DIY repairs and tips.

 

A Repair Cafe in Cheltenham

This post has been inspired by the Regeneration Cafe which launches in Cheltenham on Saturday 7th March. Vision 21, University of Gloucestershire Product Design staff and students and the Gloucestershire Joint Waste Team are launching a monthly repair cafe in Cheltenham.

If you live in Cheltenham or nearby, why not pop along to support this fantastic initiative. Do you have something that needs fixing? Do you have skills or repair knowledge that might come in handy? Want to learn more about the project? Why not pop in, all are most welcome.

Launch Event:

The Regeneration Cafe – Saturday 7th May 2016 – 10am – 12.30pm
St Andrews URC, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham GL50 1SP.

For further details about this launch event: https://www.facebook.com/events/972253176162377/

 

Why not get in touch with your local council, or search on Google, to see if there is a repair cafe near you. If there isn’t one… you could start one!

Do you have details of your local repair cafe? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below

 

 

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Wild Garlic ramsons forage forager foraging free food in the wild uk sustainability thrifty

Foraging in April – Free food in the wild – UK

Free

Foraging for food in the wild is a fantastic way to bulk out your meals for free.

Wild Garlic ramsons forage forager foraging free food in the wild uk sustainability thrifty

Wild Garlic leaves (Ramsons) – identify by breaking a leaf for a distinctive garlicy smell

It’s also great exercise, great for connecting with nature and great for boosting your self-esteem as you start to discover the wealth of free food that’s just poking out of the ground, or dangling off a tree in your local area… if you only know what to look for!

Below is a short list of the kinds of foods that are ready to find and pick in April in the UK. As the weather gets warmer, there is plenty to be found for the eager forager.

Each item in the list is a link that will show you a description on Wikipedia, so that you may identify the food correctly before you pick and eat it.

If you haven’t tried foraging before, why not just go for a walk around your local park or woodland, see if you recognise any of the plants or fungi that appear on this blog.

Take a tub or bag with you, and make sure that you wash your foraged finds before you eat them.

Get Foraging in April!

Bistort    Carragheen    Cleavers   Cow Parsley    Dandelion Flowers & Root    Fairy-ring Champignon    Gorse Flowers    Hawthorne leaves   Hop Shoots    Laver   Mallow leaves    Morel    Nettle    Primrose     Prunella   Rosemary   Sea Beet    St George’s Mushroom   Sweet Violet    Tansy leaves   Wild Garlic   Yarrow

Be safe when foraging, make sure that you are picking something edible and not something poisonous! It is a good idea to use a guide book or to research online before you go foraging. For example, try looking up each of the above on Wikipedia to find an accurate image and description.

 

I recommend the following books about foraging for free food – they help you to identify, harvest, prepare and preserve your findings:

My favourite is ‘Food for Free‘, because it is a pocket-sized guide that you can take out foraging.

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upcycle upcycling reuse repurpose reusing repurposing recycle recycling sustainability slideshow presentation

Upcycle, reuse & repurpose – Inspirational ideas

Making & DIY, Sustainability

Upcycle, reuse and repurpose unwanted items. Make the most of your rubbish and maybe even make something beautiful.

Take a look at these weird and wonderful ideas. Hopefully they will inspire you and help you to look at your rubbish in a whole new light.

Just click through each slide using the yellow boxes at the bottom of the pictures, or by clicking on the actual pictures. Enjoy!


Upcycling – by ThriftySustainability.net – Created with Haiku Deck

Why Upcycle?

Upcycling unwanted materials helps our environment, one repurposed item at a time. Creating something from our waste will save that waste from going into a landfill site. It will save the energy and transportation that would have been used to process the waste.

Repurposing can also save us from buying something new, if we can make what we need, out of what we already have lying around… we can save money as well as live sustainably.

Upcycled items can also make fantastic gifts, just take a look through the slides above for some great thrifty and sustainable DIY gift ideas. Or take a look at this previous post for another upcycling idea: DIY gift idea

Some of the most inspirational upcycling ideas are those which use our rubbish to create something beautiful and that puts something in the world that will cheer people up a little when they see it. That’s got to be worth the effort!

What will you upcycle? Do you have any upcycling ideas? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy Upcycling!

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grow your own zucchini courgette plant vegetables self-sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Why grow your own fruit and vegetables?

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

thrifty sustainability affordable cheap food grow your own vegetables allotmentGrow your own

If you are looking for ways to save money and to live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle, why not grow your own food, it’s a great place to start.

Planting, nurturing, growing, picking, preparing and then eating your own food can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Whether you are growing food in an allotment, community garden project, your home garden or even in your window box, there is a way for everyone to have a go and have a grow!

Saving Money

The price of food shopping is always increasing and growing your own food can help to cut food bills considerably.

As an example: You can buy a packet of courgette seeds for 70p and just one courgette plant can yield 10 courgettes or more! Compare that to a pack of 2 courgettes costing £1.30 in a supermarket and you can see how the savings will soon pile up.

grow your own zucchini courgette plant vegetables self sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Just one courgette plant can yield 10 courgettes or more!

You can save even more money buy bulk-buying packets of seeds online. Ebay has lots of these and you can often buy a set of 50 varied seed packets for about £10.

If money is tight you can also swap your extra fresh fruit and veg with neighbours for other items that you need.

Rather than buying an expensive gift, freshly picked fruit and veg makes an excellent present for a friend or relative. It’s a really thoughtful gift because you’ve put your time and energy into making it for them. You could make a fresh veg hamper or give a bag of fresh veg with a recipe for a soup that they can make with the vegetables.

Helping the environment

pesticides food production industry sustainability grow your own vegetables

Pesticides can pollute the soil and our rivers

If you grow your own food, you are helping the environment. You dramatically cut your food’s carbon footprint, by cutting down on the energy use, waste and emissions that the food industry production, refrigeration and transportation requires.

Your home-grown food will also not have used chemical fertilisers or pesticides which are harmful for local wildlife, such as bees and birds, and the environment. Pesticides used in growing food on a mass-scale can pollute the soil and as rain water drains through the soil and finds its way to streams an rivers, our waterways can become polluted and harm fish and river wildlife also.

Health Benefits

This new hobby can benefit your health also. You will discover a sense of wellbeing and connectedness to nature, as you work in harmony with your environment and enjoy fresh, seasonal, organic fruit and veg. Harvesting and preparing food that you’ve grown yourself, from scratch, can also give your self-esteem a really great boost.

By consuming your produce within a few hours of picking, you enjoy the full, fresh, nutritional benefit of that food. If it is freshly-picked the vitamin content of the food is at its highest. Eating lots of fresh fruit and veg can really help you to absorb all the vitamins and minerals that you need as part of a healthy balanced diet and that helps to strengthen your body’s immune system.

Of course, gardening is also great exercise! All that time out in the fresh air, moving around, getting your heart pumping, using your muscles and even boosting your mood with all that natural light and the feeling of vitality that comes from working up a sweat!

Anyone who has ever tasted a freshly-picked, home-grown, organic, ripe, plump and juicy tomato, bursting with flavour…will tell you that freshly picked food tastes so much better! So start enjoying your food even more by really tasting it. Food that is a joy to eat can make anyone smile.

Community

When we work together and share the results, we build and strengthen a community.

veg gift basket grow your own vegetables self sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Share your home-grown veg with friends

As you grow your own food, you will find that sometimes you get a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable, as the weather and growing conditions have produced an abundance of growth. This is a fantastic opportunity to share your home-grown food with friends, family, neighbours and fellow food growers!

If you grow on an allotment, perhaps you can leave spare food near the gate with a sign saying – free, please take what you need. If you grow in your garden at home and have a glut, why not take your spare food to a neighbour or friends. You may even find that your friends, neighbours and fellow growers are inspired to do the same.

Talk to fellow food growers, share tips and success stories, share food and left over seeds. Not only might you make someone’s day, but you just might learn something and make a new friend too!

More articles about growing and preserving your own food coming soon.

Similar posts: Grow your own – Planting & Picking Calendar

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carrier bags carrier bag Shopping trolley cart eco friendly sustainable carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

Why are carrier bags 5p now? – Explanation & alternatives to save you money

Sustainability, Thrifty

You have probably noticed by now, that most shops in the UK are charging 5p per carrier bag at the checkouts. It’s caused some confusion and has caused more than a few cross words over the last couple of weeks, at tills across the country. Lets take a look at why carrier bags now cost you money, and the thinking behind this new cost.

Why shops started to charge 5p per carrier bag:

On the 5th October 2015 the Law in the UK changed making it compulsory for larger shops to charge for every ‘single use’ carrier bag. This law affects all of the shops and supermarket chains with over 250 employees. This law does not affect the smaller shops at the moment, but they can choose to charge 5p per bag as well, if they wish to, on a voluntary basis.

When carrier bags are free:
Some items are allowed a free carrier bag, often due to health and safety reasons. Free carrier bag items are as follows: unwrapped food, raw meat and fish where there is a food safety risk, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, or live fish.

You can read the full terms and conditions set out for retailers on this government web page about the carrier bag charge.

Landfill land fill environment eco friendly sustainable carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

61,000 tonnes of carrier bag waste in 2014

Why the government want us to re-use or use less carrier bags:
Single use carrier bags cause lots and lots of litter (at least 61,000 tonnes of litter in 2014). Because they are currently thought of as quite a disposable item, many are thrown away in the rubbish bin, or discarded in the street, the average person uses 140 single use carrier bags per year! UK landfills are full of all of our old carrier bags. As well as causing lots of litter, discarded carrier bags are dangerous and destructive for wildlife in the town and country. And, lets face it, tumble-weed carrier bags blowing in the breeze are not such a pretty sight.

Reducing the amount of ‘single use’ carrier bags will really help our environment and ensure that our shopping habits are as sustainable as possible in the long term.

Where does the money go:
The 5p charge is not a government tax and they do not get the money raised from the carrier bags. The money goes to the supermarkets and shops directly, the shops have to keep track of their carrier bag income and it is hoped that the majority will put the 5p charge to good causes and charities. The 5p charge is already in place in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The charge in Wales has, so far, generated millions of pounds for good causes, so the government’s hopes were well-placed.

The government estimate that the 5p charge will have the following benefits over the next 10 years:

  • an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
  • up to £730 million raised for good causes
  • £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
  • carbon savings of £13 million

You can read a full breakdown of the government’s explanation for the 5p carrier bag charge on their website.

Alternatives to carrier bags:

Shopping bags eco friendly sustainable recycled materiel weave carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

Recycled material shopping bags

I’m sure that we’ve all seen some interesting, creative alternatives for carrier bags over the last couple of weeks. As a few irate customers discover the 5p charge at the checkout and decide not to pay it, they invent new ways to carry their shopping home.

Some of the funnier scenes have included an angry chap in Iceland turning up the bottom of his jumper to make a kind of bulky kangaroo pouch to pile his shopping into – A few pedantic patrons marching out of supermarkets with arms full of shopping balanced here there and everywhere, apart from in a carrier bag. Some supermarkets have even trained their till staff to resolve the arguments that the 5p charge might provoke.

Save yourself from feeling miffed, save a stranger from feeling miffed – carry these alternatives to the carrier bag around with you…

    • Bag for Life – often costs 10p-£1 at the checkout, is supermarket branded, thicker and much sturdier than a ‘single use’ carrier bag and lasts for lots of shopping trips and often the supermarket will replace a worn out bag with a new one for free! This saves you lots of money in the long run
    • A fabric tote bag, made from recycled material – they fold, or roll up, small enough to fit into a handbag or pocket, and they are very strong
    • If you have driven to the supermarket – re-use a cardboard box to carry your groceries. Just pack loose shopping from the shopping trolley into the cardboard box in your car boot
    • Similarly, you could re-use stackable, plastic storage boxes from your home, keeping them in your car boot
    • Start wearing a backpack or carrying a large shoulder bag, such as a messenger bag
Shopping trolley cart eco friendly sustainable carrier bag carrier bags charge 5p sustainability

Shopping trolleys – not just for pensioners!

  • a small fabric shopping trolley with wheels. Once the favourite of pensioners across the UK, these useful carryalls are making a comeback for all ages, thanks to how much you can cram into them and the fact that you don’t need to carry the weight of the shopping – the wheels do that for you
  • A fold up, into a little pouch with a clip, fabric shopping bag – these can be found in any pound shop and in some charity shops and are usually water-resistant too
  • According to government research, the average household is supposed to have about 40 carrier bags stuffed around the house – Go through your cupboards at home and find all of those unloved old carrier bags that may be lurking. Grab a handful and keep them in your bag or pockets for reusing at the checkout. You could do a frustrated stranger a favour by ensuring you have enough for them also at the checkout.

Feel free to share your ideas for carrier bag alternatives, or amusing checkout stories, in the comments section below.

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carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability
carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability carrier bag environment eco-friendly save 5p sustainability

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thrifty sustainability energy saving switch off standby appliance low energy sustainable cheap low cost

Switch it off / Smarter use of energy

Sustainability, Thrifty
thrifty sustainability energy saving switch off standby appliance low energy sustainable cheap low cost

Don’t leave gadgets on standby, it wastes energy – switch them off when not in use

Did you know that appliances still eat up power when they’re on standby and every time you remember to switch them off, you save pennies on your electricity bill, which over the year will add up to pounds. If you are not using your TV, Laptop, Cooker, phone charger etc – don’t leave them plugged in and on standby with the little red light showing – switch them off or unplug them until you do need to use them.

The same goes for light bulbs, do you need every light in the house on if you are only using one room? For an added bonus, instead of using regular light bulbs, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs or LED lighting which drains less power, costing you less money and they’re better for the environment too. If you want to

thrifty sustainability energy saving lightbulb light bulb low energy sustainable cheap low cost

Energy saving light bulbs – conserve energy and save you money

get into super-thrifty mode, use all those candles that you’ve been given as gifts to light your home for a few nights – cosy ambience and zero energy cost.

You might like to consider your water usage, aside from a small cost saving when we reduce the amount of water that we use, we also help the environment by conserving our water. A few ways to reduce your water use… a quick shower rather than a fill a bath tub… don’t leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth… if you have a garden that needs watering, consider getting a water-butt so that you can use the rainwater that is collected instead of tap water.

Heating the home is usually the largest chunk of our energy bill so this is where you can really save some money whilst reducing your carbon footprint. If you are feeling a bit nippy, rather than reach to turn up the thermostat or to put on an electric heater, why not add another layer of clothes, a hat and a pair of socks does wonders to keep you warm as does a onesie.. or add an extra blanket to your bed. Even if you just do this for a couple of hours before putting the heating on, over the year, you will save pounds. You will also be conserving energy.. another eco win! If you do need to have the heating on, try turning the thermostat down a little, and for the hot water too – again, this will save you money.

thrifty sustainability affordable saving energy bills save heating hat jumper conserve energy

Stay toasty! – Wear a hat and a jumper – to save money on your heating bills

Just as popping a hat on your head keeps you nice and toasty and keeps your body heat from escaping quite so quickly, you can insulate your home to ensure that heat (and the energy that you pay for) does not escape willy nilly. If you have a loft, lay down thick insulation up there (a nice warm hat for your home). Check windows and doors to ensure that no draughts are coming in, if they are this is where heat can escape, so apply foam insulation tape to plug the leaks or use draught excluders to reduce heat-loss in the home. It’s worth being thorough because every thing you do to reduce heat loss in the home will save you money when it comes to the heating bill, and every energy conservation step that you take will help the environment too.

If you have central heating and do not need to heat every room in the house, turn the radiator right down, or off, in those unused rooms. If you find you have a radiator positioned directly under a window, this can be pretty ineffective and a big energy-loss. If this radiator is being used, close the curtains and tuck them in behind the radiator to push the heat back out into the room, there are also heat-reflecting panels which you can put behind and above radiators to produce the same result. Or simply fit a shelf above the radiator and below the window.

Being thrifty is all about looking for those small opportunities – When cooking, if you are going to be using the oven to bake something, what else could you bake at the same time to save using the oven for twice as long? If cooking potatoes and vegetables on the hob, why not get a stacked saucepan/steamer and cook both on the same ring to save using two – and save yourself from using twice as much electricity or gas.

If you have a washing machine and tumble dryer, these are both big energy users – consider hand-washing every once in a while, or drying your clothes on a washing line or dryer frame. Try washing your clothes with a 30 degrees setting instead of 60 or 90 degrees, that alone could halve the cost and amount of energy used! The same goes for dishwashers, if you use one, try to cut back on using it every time you have had a meal and wait until you have a full load or wash by hand instead, every little change helps you to save money and to conserve energy.

If you need to buy a new appliance, you can compare the energy ratings of each appliance to see which will be the most energy-efficient and cost-effective for your needs.

You may also be eligible for an energy-saving grant from the government – check here to see if this applies to you – http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/ – the Energy Saving Trust website also has plenty of advice for those wishing to conserve energy use in the home.

Do you have any tips to share, that will save money on household bills? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below. Thank you.

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