As the new #LiveLagom Ambassadors start their journey I thought it was a good opportunity to look back on mine and a chance to look to the future.
Little did I know when I signed up for the project just where it would take me…and still is taking me.
Famous for 5 minutes
As the project started to come to an end last year for me I was photographed, filmed, interviewed for a magazine and questioned about my experience on the Live Lagom project and what had changed. What fun it has been. I now feature in the new Live Lagom brochure, a You Tube video and am off for a press launch tomorrow in London. For me the project was the start I needed to change how we were living as a family…the lightbulb moment to stop buying ‘stuff’ and take stock. I’ve had and am still having such a blast.
I am far more aware of what we are buying and think more before any purchase…do we really need it…can we make do with using something else we already have…can we declutter/change the room round and do without…or can we upcycle/ make something from other ‘stuff’ we have knocking about?
Upcycle/ Recycle – A good example of this philosophy is recently we bought a new bed (the other one was knackered after 15 years and 4 house moves) this gave us chance to have a reshuffle, declutter and revamp of our bedroom without buying anything new to achieve this. We have two recesses either side of a (filled in) chimney breast that were ideal for making into hanging space for clothes. Luckily for me hubbie is really good at DIY and if I come up with a design he will do his best to build it for me 🙂 A quick check in our garage and we found panels left over from when we fitted the kitchen, MDF from a warehouse clear out and sheer curtains from one of the house moves. All we needed to buy was a hanging rail…Bargain! It looks fab and fits in well.
GYO – I am still growing salad leaves using the Hydroponics kit I was given as part of the project. I have grown seeds into plants, bought ‘Living Salads’ and planted them in the kit to grow on and kitchen scraps from spring onions to leeks to pak choi; they have all flourished and grown well. There is no stopping the Hydroponics and its uses. Brilliant
Here is the Pak Choi I am growing on in the hydroponics kit.
I used the leaves for a stir fry and then ‘planted’ the root in the hydroponics basket and popped it into the hydroponics kit. Hey presto it grew. Fabulous.
I have also been experimenting with growing an avocado stone to see whether I can get any fruit to grow. It is a slow process but so far so good I have a couple of plants growing so may be in the summer I will have some growing.
Avocado Stone & Roots
I think the main message I will take away from this project is that last year was just the start of the journey and now is the real test. My attitude and outlook has definitely changed and I am trying to live a more ‘just enough’ life.
I pass on all I have learnt to my learners and anyone else that will listen and am always promoting the benefits of living a Lagom lifestyle even if it falls on deaf ears with my teens! When I go out walking now I come back with arms full of wood for the wood burner, pine cones to cover in the left overs from candles, for firelighters or foraged food (or rubbish to recycle in my bins).
I will carry on growing on my kitchen scraps, composting my food waste/ cardboard and egg boxes and using it to grow my own veggies.
I try and buy food out of plastic containers and have been buying from my local greengrocer and butcher something I didn’t really do before; this means no plastic bags as I can pop fruit and veg straight into a hessian bag and meat into a glass bowl.
I am trying not to buy anything new this year but to shop in charity shops; if this fails and I need to replace something then I will buy new but only after I have decided whether I REALLY need it!
Thank you Hubbub and Ikea for all the help, inspiration, workshops, advice and opportunities I’ve had a ball 🙂
Let me start by saying thank you for selecting me and my family to be part of this project, I can honestly say I have loved every minute of it. The family less so!
Gosh has it really been six months since the project started…I feel we are only just scratching the surface.
When I filled in the questionnaire for Ikea at the beginning of the project, these are the responses I gave to the following two questions.
11. What is the main reason that you have made or want to make changes to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle?
To stop wasting food, resources, energy and money
12. And what would you say is the main reason why it’s difficult to make changes?
Teenagers who want ‘stuff’
Lets see if we have achieved these as a result of trying to live a more sustainable life for the past 6 months.
Final Results and Savings
Saving money was high on our agenda…
#Saving Number 1: We have just had correspondence from e-on (who we have dual-fuel with) and they are reducing our direct debit from £118/month to £76/month. Ok the warmer weather has kicked in and we would expect to see a drop in our payments but this is some decrease! Time will tell over the year whether we have achieved our goal and by how much…
The complete change over to LED light bulbs around the house, adding blankets and throws to beds & sofas for warmth, rugs to floors, double curtains, sealing all windows with draught excluder and using the wood burner (hubbie collects FREE pallets to chop up and burn) instead of heating the whole house has all added to this result. Plus not having to change the light bulbs every month has saved loads of dosh!
Selection of LED Bulbs
#Saving Number 2: I have managed to get our monthly food bill down by £40-£50.
Planning meals and portion sizes, using left overs up, using things up out the freezer, only shopping once a week and buying things we need rather than what ‘we want’. It does mean we have had times when the girls have said ‘but there is NOTHING to eat’ followed by the big roll of the eyes…meaning there is nothing we can snack on that is quick and out of a packet. We/they have never starved though 🙂 The other area that has really helped reduce the amount of wastage is starting a compost bin. Looking at the raw food mounting up in the kitchen collection bin is a real ‘in your face’ eye opener!
Carrot tops, celery, onions and leeks
#Saving Number 3: I am consciously trying to re-use, upcycle, repurpose anything we have in the house or garage before we buy new. This includes wood for a new decking area, a new shelving/ wardrobe unit in our bedroom which was becoming an eye sore with the amount of clutter it was attracting. Using decoupage as a technique for updating an old tired set of drawers and making my own chalk paint for distressing furniture.
#Saving Number 4: I have adopted principle ‘Make do and Mend’ before buying any new clothes or bags. I have set up the sewing machine (we had already) in my workshop to mend or alter clothes. I look in charity shops first to pick up quality clothes at a fraction of the cost and then dye them, change the buttons or change them in some form. This has been great fun!
#Saving Number 5; I have started to make my own natural cleaning products using vinegar, lemon and rosemary. I am currently delivering a course for the local housing association and as part of this I had all the learners making their own products. They all came back and raved about how good and effective it is at getting grease off so I thought I had better try it…works a treat 🙂
#Saving Number 6: Is a little unexpected but we have managed to reduce the amount we are putting in the recycling bins and the garden waste we put in the green bin.
Recycling reduction is due to the fact I am keeping a lot of it in my workshop to either use for myself or as part of my classes. We have been reusing tins as planters after covering them with left over wallpaper, using large yogurt pots as bug hotels and glass jars for storing food, beans, lentils, buttons, beads etc…etc… Plastic bottles are being used as cloches in the garden for my lettuce plants.
Garden Waste reduction is as a result of doing my Master Composting course (our local council are now charging for green bin collection so I am hoping to cancel the collection completely next year saving £50). We now compost everything or if they are large pieces…save it to burn in our wood burner. Alternatively it is used for bug hotels.
Reflections and Learning
I think the biggest learning throughout this project was that small changes can make a big difference and it doesn’t have to be about buying things (although it certainly helped initially).
Buying quality is better than buying quantity
We, as a society, waste so much without a thought to the consequences, resources and alternatives.
Plastic is used for everything and really hard to get away from.
A little change to some bad habits can result in a difference mind set.
It doesn’t take long to make savings
Having the support and Facebook network has been invaluable to keep the momentum and enthusiasm going.
Taking photos, keeping a diary/ blog helps to keep the focus and put you back on track.
Having the family involved really helps
Anything is possible…daughter tidying her drawers without being told, hubbie looking at what we have to use rather than what we need to buy
What was your favourite part? What could be better?
This is really hard for me to answer because I have honestly loved everything about the project. I have decided to pick a Top Five favourite parts instead…
Coming in at Number 5: Meeting the other #Live LAGOM people at the first meeting
Number 4: Selecting the goods with the help of the lovely Kerry in Nottingham
Number 3: Exploring other sustainability areas such as composting, visiting a recycling site and MBT facility
Number 2: Seeing savings in a relatively short space of time
Coming in as the Number 1 favourite part is the Hydroponics prototype I received…I absolutely loved the whole growing experience, warts and all. Even though I have only mastered growing in the nursery kit so far 😉
NOTE: A late addition to the best bits but a Bertie bonus was my daughter decluttering her drawers over the weekend…little steps…
Which products worked best and which didn’t?
I think most of the products we selected worked well for our needs but it was the middle of winter so saving money & keeping warm were high on the agenda where as now we might have selected differently.
My Top 5 products are as follows:
Number 5: Adam High Pile rug, lovely colour and has made a big difference to the warmth in the lounge. Even next doors dog loves it!
Number 4: IKEA PS 2014 Star Wars inspired light has the real wow factor and works really well in our lounge. The fact you can make it bright/dull makes a difference to the whole ambiance in the room. Love it.
Number 3: Changing over all the bulbs to LED ones has been a major saver all round. Less energy used and wasted and not having to change any light bulbs for the past six months has been fab! Never buying anything but LED now.
Number 2: A bit of a cheat I know as technically I didn’t buy it but I would buy it again is the nursery hydroponics kit. This has totally transformed my thinking about growing in the winter months and being able to eat salad leaves all year round. Magic!
Number 1: Drum roll…the best bit of kit and the ones we use the most are the cooking ones. I bought two medium and one large SENSUELL pans with the STABIL steamer insert. Absolutely amazing: can now cook lots of pasta (normal and gluten free) in the same pan or cook the carrots then add the broccoli to cook in the same water 5 minutes later in the steamer. Brilliant!
What will I do next?
I plan to keep the momentum going and trying to introduce the principles with everything I do and we do as a family, as well as passing on the message with the courses I write and deliver for Leicestershire County Council.
I will continue to write a blog on my experiences.
Carry on decluttering, upcycling, reusing and repurposing items we have already.
I am currently studying ‘Our hungry planet’ a free course via futurelearn.com and would love to study a course on Sustainability or similar.
Look for some funding within the local area/district council to run a course for local people in areas of deprivation or in a school in a similar area.
I would love to carry on the project in some form or another…so count me in!
Who would I recommend the project too?
Family, friends, work colleagues
Anyone I teach
Schools/ Children’s Centres/ Community Houses/ Housing Associations
Teenagers – now there is a challenge!
All that is left to say is thank you for the opportunity and wishing you all the success for the future. #Live LAGOM
Well I am the first to admit, I had never heard of hydroponics let alone grown anything using the method.
I love growing things, both indoor and outdoor, though I am a bit of a traditionalist using soil or compost. However that is where the traditionalist leaves as I like to grow salad leaves in recycled tins, potatoes in buckets and kitchen scraps in upcycled Costa coffee cups. This was a whole new ball game: Commence Operation #Hydroponics.
I received a message from Melissa, the project leader for the Live LAGOM project…
‘…you have been randomly selected to try one of our new secret products, we’d love to send it to you!‘
Well I didn’t need asking twice…how exciting…what could it be…
The next day a large box arrived with what I thought was an indoor greenhouse…wrong. I was now the proud owner of a prototype hydroponics kit KRYDDA/VAXER. Ikea were bringing hydroponics to the masses and I was one of the first people to trial it. The kit looked like it should be in a science lab (which is what it had been used for commercially)and I should be wearing a white coat, goggles and mask working in a sterile unit not my home 🙂
The term Hydroponics comes from the ancient Greek ‘hydros’ meaning water and ‘ponos’ meaning work. Plants are grown without the use of soil but in water with nutrients dissolved in it and depending on the hydroponic system: roots are suspended in, flooded in or misted with nutrient solution so the plant can gain all it needs for growth.
Back to my parcel…I unpacked the box, read and digested the information and got to work creating my hydroponics lab! In my dining room which does have a conservatory style glass roof.
The KRYDDA/VAXER growing kit (currently on sale in Ikea shops at £58) consists of a nursery and sprout box with clear lid, a metal cultivation unit, LED cultivation light, cultivation insert, growing media (mineral wool and pumice stone) and fertiliser. I also had a selection of seeds specially designed for hydroponics – Lemon Basil, Purple Basil, Endive, Chicory, Rocket and Coriander. Luckily all the salad leaves I eat.
I soaked the mineral wool growing media in water before putting them into the individual plastic inserts.
I put a couple of seeds onto each of the mineral wool plugs and labelled the row ends so I knew what was growing where and how long they took to sprout. Each set of seeds has a different germinating time like any soil based seeds.
Next step was to fill the base to the max line, with water. A word of caution here: Make sure you set up your kit in the location it is staying in as it becomes very heavy anddifficult to move once the base is full of water! (My first mistake was to have to move it to a different location after it had been set up!)
After I had decided where it was going to live I put the clear plastic lid on top and left it to it. Although I had been provided with an LED cultivating light I decided not to use it for the nursery growing stage. The seeds had been placed in an area with lots of natural light and was warm and snug with its plastic lid on.
The next week was a mass of activity from both the seeds and me! Seeds were germinating and sprouting upwards, I was taking pictures daily to post on Facebook & Instagram and I spent a lot of time just watching…they really are fascinating to look at.
After 3 days I had my first seedlings, Rocket was the first one to sprout with the two types of Basil being the last. The root system that eventually grows hanging down from the wool pods, looks like something out of Alien.
After a week the Rocket was ready to move to the next stage and grow on using pumice. This was where I made my second mistake. In my haste to move the seedlings on and because I had a prototype all the instructions were in Swedish so I made up/guessed the quantity of fertiliser needed to be added to the water in the cultivation unit base. It was wrong! I had added 1 lid full to a litre of water (it was actually 1 lid full to 6 litres of water I found out later) Disaster…I killed all 8 of the seedlings I had moved! I couldn’t believe how upset I was…after all their hard work converting the suns energy I had managed to kill them in less than a day.
A quick message to Melissa to translate and I found out all I needed to know to try again. The good thing about the nursery unit is that you grow 50 seedlings so plenty more for me to transfer and have a go at growing on!
I decided that I would move a selection of seedlings this time as more had grown on and even the one pod that hadn’t shown any interest in growing, decided to suddenly sprout. Result!
I have to say I still haven’t perfected this stage and the seedlings that are still growing in the nursery are doing far better than the ones I have moved.
As you can see from the picture right I have more salad leaves growing on the mineral wool pods (nursery) than I do in the cultivating stage.
What I have learnt from this experience?
The seedlings do not like to be handled too much, once transferred leave them alone!
Make sure you set everything up in the location before adding the water to either of the bases. Very heavy and unstable when you need to move it and they hold A LOT of water!
Check the water content daily in both bases it can disappear quickly on a warm day
Have a mixture of fertiliser ready to top up the levels with. I used an old squash bottle 🙂
Grow a selection of seeds as they all sprout at different times, it means you have a constant supply of new seedlings or leaves to cut.
Don’t give up of get disheartened if it goes wrong.
The WOW! factor when anyone comes round is a real winner. Everyone wants to know more…be prepared to chat about it for A-G-E-S 😉
To date I am still yet to taste the salad leaves but it wont be long as the nursery ones are coming along nicely. The cultivating stage ones may take a bit longer but I am determined to crack it!
I never thought I would be a convert from the traditional soil based growing method but I loved the whole experience and the thought of being able to grow salad leaves in the middle of winter using this system really appeals. However I will still be using the tried and tested leaves in a tin with soil as they look good too.
Thank you IKEA for giving me the chance to have a go at hydroponics…I look forward to a winter of eating salad leaves
Well if like me you thought that all kerbside collected rubbish ended up in the landfill, you would be wrong. Local authorities are under increasing pressure to reduce the amount going to landfill and associated costs; finding alternative and innovative ways to reduce the amount being sent is critical.
In Leicestershire all of the collected kerbside rubbish goes off to a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant (MBT) in Cotesbach as a ‘last chance cafe’ to recycle any valuable resources before it heads off to the landfill and I was lucky enough to go and have a tour.
‘The principle aims of New Earth’s technology is to extract recyclable materials where they exist….diverting waste away from landfill and reducing exposure to landfill tax.’
I passed the first test by reversing into a car parking space and that set the tone for the tour, Health and Safety is very important to the company and they manage it with an obsession. We were duly given the Health and Safety briefing and kitted out with a high-viz jacket, hard hat, goggles, mask and gloves.
Our first stop was to see the Delivery area where all the waste is deposited first. Any oversized items are removed and bags are split and waste spread out. The size of space was amazing with the set up sorting through a tonne of rubbish every couple of hours. The waste is then lifted onto a vibrating plate and Sorting takes place.
The vibrating plate…vibrates, funnily enough, and sorts the waste by size. The smaller bio-mass rich particles go into the Bio-StabilisationHalls and the other materials travel on into the another sorting area for more separation.
Rubbish bags are split
Vibrating plate sorts smaller items
Looking into the casm of rubbish
Chris gives a sense of scale to the rubbish
The recyclable metal and plastic materials are separated from the rest of the waste using various methods including a drum separator and magnets, again on a massive scale.
Once all the ‘recyclabubble ‘ material has been removed the remaining waste still doesn’t go off to landfill: it is suitable for use as fuel. Not any old fuel though.
‘Currently the fuel is transported to Europe for use in high efficiency Combined Heat and Power Plants’
‘New Earth is looking at building its own energy recovery plant in Avonmouth, Bristol’
As previously mentioned in the Sorting stage, all the bio-mass rich particles are sent to the Bio–StabilisationHalls to be ‘composted’ down.
The Bio-rich particles or ‘fines’ as they are known are stored in long heaps in ‘ma-hou-sive’ enclosed halls allowing the compost to reach its optimal condition. They are kept in here for about 6 weeks and the heaps are turned regularly to help the compost decompose equally.
‘Ma-hou-sive’ turning machines are used daily to turn all the heaps over.
This compostable material cannot be used anywhere other than as a soil conditioner on brownfield sites, once it has been screened and reaches all the legal requirements.
‘Animal By-Product Regulations’ – In order to meet ABPR requirements the material must reach a temperature of at least 60 degrees C for a minimum of 16 days while being turned every 48 hours. This is monitored by electronic probes inserted along the length of the heaps, sending data back to the automated control system’
This is the end result of the composting stage, looks like normal compost to me!
My Learning Outcomes:
Who knew so much went on behind the scenes once my kerbside rubbish has been collected
The whole set up at New Earth was clean, tidy and didn’t smell. Not what I was expecting at all.
The company tries to maintain the status quo within the location in terms of smells, environment and pests.
I didn’t see any rats whilst I was there (a bonus!)
Flies and maggots are sprayed frequently to keep them down
A fascinating visit that lasted over 2 hours and could have gone on longer
All this takes place to recycle and reuse as much material as possible before the final drudge is sent to landfill.
Well we are half way through the project but it many ways it seems like only yesterday it started. So much has happened in a short space of time but we still have a long way to go to make big changes and of course it doesn’t end when the project ends. Sustainability is a way of life.
What has changed?
Lets start on the positive, what has changed as a result of engaging in the project…My first New Years Resolution was to REDUCE WASTE and had bought a lot of IKEA products to do this.
LED light bulbs were top of the list and after a good couple of hours, an electrician and lots of cups of tea later we were the proud owners of new lights. Although too early to see what impact it has on costs, all the indicators and research suggest it will and I am loving all my new lights and bulbs though.
My eldest daughter has always wanted lights around a mirror a bit like actors have in their dressing room: enter MUSIK and 5 x LEDARE LED bulbs stage left. It has made a massive difference to a very dark corner of the bedroom where she can now work, do make-up, homework and see! The only down side was my other daughter decided she liked it so much that she wanted one too! (Cost me more money Ikea!) The end results though are amazing and I would like one in our bedroom when we get round to sorting that out.
We also bought a new LED light IKEA PS2014 to replace an LED light which had succumbed to a leak (long story!) in the lounge. I chose the ‘Star Wars’ inspired one, this is by far the most ‘Show Stopping’ light that everyone comments on. It looks fantastic whether in daylight or night, on or off 🙂
It is amazing how much heat the old lights gave off and the LED ones don’t, this is really noticeable in the kitchen which has six bulbs and stretches across the ceiling. Previously you could feel the heat on your head but now you can’t.
The four pronged silver light (middle row, left in the picture), which we bought from Ikea years ago was a real bulb eater and we were having to replace a bulb every 5 or 6 weeks and we have two of them, since replacing them with LED bulbs I haven’t had to change any lights bulbs. It will be interesting to see how long the LED bulbs last.