We did it everyone! Sustainable September is almost over for another year.
So what are we going to talk about for our last tip. Here's a question to think about for a moment...
What is sustainability?
We know. It may seem an odd question to ask at this late stage, but let's seriously think about it for a moment. What is sustainability?
How about a definition. Sustainability is being able to meet present day needs, without compromising future needs. The three main factors associated with sustainability are the economy, the environment and social stability.
Great. So what does that mean for us? It means not using up our resources so that our future selves can continue to function effectively. This could be avoiding frivolous spending. It could be taking a more mindful approach to life so we limit waste. It could be taking better care of our native wildlife. It could be encouraging healthier lifestyles, therefore putting less strain on the NHS. It could be saving energy at home.
There are so many things that we can do to work towards a sustainable planet. This month we've only scratched the surface, but it's a start. So what's the final tip? Set an example! If you've been following the blog, you could have made 29 changes to the way you live. Spread the word! If you can share what you've learnt with one person, then those 29 changes suddenly become 58! Keep going, let's work together to make a difference in our communities.
Don't just tell people, really lead by example. Help teach our children healthy, sustainable habits. Eventually they'll teach their children. Don't forget sustainability isn't just about us, it's about future generations working for the future of the planet...
At the Refill briefing one of the speakers said that people like to do what other people are doing. It's true, we've seen it for ourselves. Before we started the Sustainable September blog we had a plan for every blog entry we were going to post. Many of them never happened because once we started people were coming out of the woodwork with their own ideas. Our blog posts have been contributed to, liked, commented on, shared with others and we have received over 80 website clicks every week during September. People have shared their own recipes, taken up the doing our bit challenge with videos of their own and suggested their own ways of sustainable living.
If we can do it, you can too. So be the trend setter that your neighbours follow!
We hope you put these tips to good use, and we'll see you next year. Maybe you'll have a few pointers of your own to share by then. We'd love to hear from you...
Soup. Also known as a very grown up way to use the inside of your Halloween pumpkin!
The great thing about soups is that they are such flexible recipes. Using our very basic guide you can make any number of inventions. You could use home grown veggies straight out of the garden, oddments you've found in the fridge or pull out one of those freezer boxes you prepared a few weeks back. It' even up to you how you cook it, if you fancy some quiet time in front of the hob then carry on... Or if it's a lazy Sunday afternoon, then fire up the slow cooker and flop on the sofa. Like we did!
Our basic ingredient guide:
Your ingredient pile might end up looking something like this:
The plan was to make a spicy pumpkin soup but apparently we're too early in the season... So we improvised! Do us a favour, when you tell your friends about this amazing recipe, can you tell them it was pumpkin for a spooky Halloween soup please?
Step one: Deseed and peel the squash (cough PUMPKIN cough) and cut into chunks. Season with pepper and chilli flakes then roast for about 30 minutes in a 200 degrees C oven. If you can't be bothered to roast it, fair enough! Put the roasted (or not) squash in your slow cooker pot or pan on the hob.
Step two: Roughly chop your remaining vegetables (or open your freezer box) and add to the pot/pan.
Step three: Add your stock. How much is up to you depending on how thick you want your finished soup. If you're using the hob about a pint is a good place to start. Slow cookers need less liquid so we used a mug and a half of stock. You can always add more water later on if required. Add your seasoning.
Step four: If you're using the hob, leave to slowly boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If you're using a slow cooker, turn it to high and take a four hour nap or turn it to low and take a day trip.
Step five: Blend to the consistency you like.
Step six: We're hoping the Queen might call in so we primped our soup with garlic oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
Hints and tips:
The main flavour - make sure this is the bulk of your ingredients.
The secondary flavour - Use odd little bits of whatever you like, but if you want to make your soup look pretty at the end, use vegetables that are similar colours to each other.
Dried pulses - Dried lentils, beans or chickpeas are great thickeners but just be careful. They can take more cooking than you think, so soak them first and follow instructions on the packet.
Dairy - Cream, cheese, yoghurt or crème fraiche are all excellent options for thickeners or garnishes, but remember they reactive differently depending on how you are cooking. If you're using a hob and want to add cream or cheese then add it with the stock and stir occasionally. However if you're using a slow cooker you are at greater risk of the soup mix splitting and curdling so add it just before you blend the soup.
Have fun improvising with your harvest this Halloween!
Keep a look out for a post closer to Halloween. We have a carved pumpkin alternative for any crafty grown ups out there, but thought you might have read enough for one day... Check back soon...
Halloween is swiftly approaching... So it's time for pumpkin carving! Hooray!!! But it also means a lot of yummy pumpkin going to waste! Boo!!!
Ask yourself this, how many pumpkins do you think you've eaten compared to how many you've carved? They're a little bit like marmite aren't they, love them or hate them... But we all love a carved pumpkin even if we don't fancy eating it.
So we've come up with a few alternatives this year! We may have gotten a little carried away so it's in two parts. Fun for the kids today and fun for the bigger kids tomorrow!
Yummy Little Ghosties...
You will need:
Hmmm. He looks like he may have been modelled on Freddie Mercury... Dependant on the variety some apples can ripen off in the trees right up until November. If you've still got some growing near you these little Halloween treats are a great way to use them and they're easy to tweak. If you add a touch of orange food dye you can make pumpkins or swap out the icing for decorations of your own choice. Raisins or melted dark chocolate perhaps?
You will need:
Again, there are many ways to personalise this crafty little lady. You can use paints instead of pens and add as many decorations as you like. If you're really feeling fancy and have a steady hand then you with a sharp knife you could carve the face as you would on a pumpkin.
Remember we don't like to waste anything so save the juices and pulp that you scraped out. You could use it to flavour jellies and truffles as an extra treat. If you've carved your orange that's pretending to be a pumpkin that's pretending to be a witch, then you can also use the peel later on. Use the zest in cheesecakes and brownies or make some preserved and candied peel ready for Christmas!
It might be early but happy Halloween folks!
The title says it all really. We're back on the shopping topic...
But this time we're not talking about where you shop, we're talking about how you shop. Make the most of your money, while cutting down on our plastic usage. Woohoo!
Now there's a great idea! They taste the same, probably cost less as you're not paying for packaging and you're not clogging up your bins with waste.
Did you know some stores are aiming to ditch the packaging completely? You can bring your own containers along and fill with as much or as little as you need. No waste plastic and no waste produce either. Win win!
Chicken breasts - £5.19 per kilo. Whole chicken - £2.05 per kilo. Less than half the price... So why settle for 2 roast chicken breasts and 2 portions of chicken pasta, when you could have 2 roast chicken breasts, 2 portions of chicken pasta (thighs), sticky BBQ chicken (drumsticks and wings) and a family size pot of chicken soup!
Fruit and veg fans, you're not off the hook either. We looked at the same shop and found a pineapple for £1 and a packet of prepare pineapple for £1. What's the difference? You could have 5 meagre slices or a whole pineapple!
Buy in bulk...
There is plenty of produce we buy that either has a long date, or no date at all. Dried pasta. Herbs and spices. Toilet roll. So we experimented again, but this time we had to use a different store. The previous one doesn't stock bulk bags of herbs and spices which just made us sad. OK here we go... One little pot of 12g of oregano, £1. So that's 83p for every 10 grams. One bigger pot of 60g of oregano, £2.50. What?! £2.50! That's outrageous! Oh wait, that's actually 42p for every 10 grams. Almost half price... That suddenly sounds much nicer!
So there you have it. Some simple shopping tips to save you money while cutting back on plastic (or otherwise) packaging. Yay! Thumbs up and a pat on the back is required!
You can probably already guess where we're going with this one...
You remember that challenge we gave you to leave the car at home once a week? Still going with it?
Yes, great, congratulations! Keep up the good work!
Or maybe not...
It's starting to get a little colder so the walk home from work is looking a little less appealing? We only said you should leave the car behind, we didn't say you had to go wheel-less. Two wheels is usually faster than two feet and can be a great deal warmer too!
Naturally cycling has great health benefits but it's also great for the environment as you're reducing those harmful carbon emissions. Have some fun with it and make it social... Why not start a 'cycling bus' with your work colleagues? Join some local cycling groups to help you get in the spirit. Take your family out for organised rides such as the Yate Bicycle Safari happening on Sunday.
Better By Bike!
Yate and Chipping Sodbury is lucky enough to be supported by Bristol's Better By Bike scheme. If you're new to cycling, or even new to the area, it's a great resource. You can have a nosey at different cycling events, find fantastic cycle trips or use it's route planner. They will give you an easy to use map and route with all the details you need to know. They'll tell you where to hop onto a cycle path or even where to hop off your bike. Handy reminders to have, no-one wants to get caught out cycling where they shouldn't.
Helmets on everyone! Happy cycling!
Summer is sadly officially over and we're into Autumn. Sigh. The garden might be starting to look a little worse for wear and the trees are starting to change colour...
Which means our littlest friends will be starting to think where to overwinter. This is where you come in, yay! You can help build the perfect little warm hiding spots with all the rubbish that has mysteriously appeared in the garden shed. A broken plant pot, a few split bamboo canes, a bucket of leftover gravel, the tile that fell off the roof. It's all good.
First up, think of size and location. If you're going big, it's probably best to build your hotel in position. Where you build is pretty much up to you, someone is bound to move in eventually. If you are hoping to attract a certain species do your research, as different creatures like different conditions.
Start your creation with a sturdy base, old pallets are great for big structures. If you're saving space, maybe try a disused bird box or wooden crate. Now simply get filling. Aim to make as many nooks and crannies as possible. Think of them like hotel rooms... the more rooms you've got, the more guests you can have. Go mad, dead wood, sticks, stones, straw, tiles, corrugated card... The only thing holding you back is your imagination. Once you're happy, pop on a roof. We wouldn't want any guests getting cold now would we?
Maybe your little ones will end up looking like this:
Or if you're going big maybe you would like to take some inspiration from Abbotswood and Wapley Bushes. Hotel Abbotswood is a rather rustic affair, blending into the wider landscape. Whereas a local Brownie group took the themed approach, Wapley Bushes even has a coffee bar and rooftop garden...
Don't forget, when working in hospitality you can never really be sure who your next guest will be. The right venue could attract more than just insects... Done well you could have the cast of the Wind In The Willows coming to stay!
Shopping. It's a very marmite thing isn't it? In one camp you have everyone who finds shopping a necessary evil... And in the other you have the retail therapy lovers. Whichever side you fall on there are a few ways of shopping that are kinder on your pocket and kinder on the planet.
We had fun last Friday. A few of our chirpy volunteers spent a little time outside Wellesley and Abbotswood Primary schools talking to locals for our yearly community consultation.
This year we may have added a cheeky little incentive, free food! Barbara had been out foraging Abbotswood apples and Nessa had been busy making mini jars of jam from local fruits. The jam went down a treat and we managed to convince a few people to try apple foraging for themselves. So we'll help you out...
Here's the apples...
And here's the jam...
Nessa's Yate Bramble Jam: Nessa used local foraged blackberries and apples for her recipe. Knowing that we were doing a giveaway we bought the jam jars, but there is nothing stopping you recycling the jars you've already got at home. If you do that then all you have to buy is the sugar! Hooray! Nessa used 2 bags of sugar, which made about 5 pounds of jam. By using foraged fruits, and reusing jars that's 5 pounds of jam for a teeny tiny £1.28. What more could you ask for?
Jam can be a great introduction to home preserving as you can tweak this basic recipe to your heart's content...
1 lb granulated sugar
1 lb fruit
Step one: Place the fruit and sugar into a large pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step two: Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, the jam should start to thicken.
Step three: Remove the jam from the heat. Spoon some of the mixture onto a cold plate. Leave for a few minutes and then push the mixture with a spoon handle or your finger (clean hands please!). If the jam wrinkles, you're good to go. If not, put the jam back on the heat for a minute or two before trying again.
Step four: While the jam is still hot, pour into sterilised jars. Do up the lid while the jam is still hot, the jam will thicken in the jar and the lid should start to create a dip as it cools. This means you can keep it safely in your cupboard for up to 6 months. It could stay there longer but might start to lose flavour. If you don't see the dip in the lid, keep the jam in the fridge and use within a few weeks. What a hardship that would be right?
The growing season might be nearly over, but that doesn't mean we can't start thinking about next year.
There is something special about growing your own, well, anything. Flowers, veggies, the odd few herbs, and small space growing is a great place to start. No matter where you live there is always something you can grow.
The nights are starting to draw in and the evenings are getting chilly. Why not use some of that sofa time to start thinking of what you might like to grow next year. Then when you're stuck for something to do on the weekends turn your attention to crafting a fancy planter all of your own. Pretty much anything can be turned into a planter, just remember a few key points:
Once you've got your planter, you can start planning your plants! If you're growing from seed, toilet roll tubes make excellent compostable seed trays. Fill your toilet roll tubes with compost and pop your seeds in. Once seedlings are ready to be transplanted just reposition the whole tube in the desired pot. As you water your plant the tube will break up allowing for root growth.
Small space inspiration...
You can experiment with colours, decorations and finding the best position around your home or garden. You may have to do a little research into what will grow best in your conditions e.g. window sill growing, shady corners or north facing gardens, but that can all be part of the fun. If you're growing edibles, make sure you choose things you will actually eat. We don't want anything going to waste, do we?
If you've got a little more space, then maybe something like this could be an option:
Jo made this planter out of old unwanted pallets that would have otherwise gone to waste. The planter was lined with leftover polythene sheeting. Gravel was repurposed from the garden to add drainage to the bottom, and then filled with compost. The herbs were saved from the clearance section of asda's fruit and veg section and replanted. With a little tender loving care they've come back strong and healthy... Just ignore the mint in the background, that's already had several months of use and is starting to give up the ghost ready for next year. By using unwanted materials, odds and ends of equipment he already had, Jo spent less than £10 on the whole project. To buy new planters of a similar size could easily cost you £50 or more. Well done Jo, that's quite the saving!
A quick tip...
When reading guidance on seed packets or plant pots you're usually told how much space you should leave between each plant. To make the most of your small space growing, go a little mad and cram as much as you can fit in. Remember if your plants start to look a little cramped you can always take one or two back out... And then move them to other planters you've been busy making haha. A word of warning, once you catch the bug it can get a little addictive.
But oh so worth it!
Anyone hungry? Because it's recipe time!
Apples and blackberries have been particularly abundant in and around Abbotswood this year, so we've been out foraging and made a batch of wild fruit scones to have on Wednesday's Wild Owl TV Garden talk. They were the favourite from the refreshment table with none leftover, so we thought we'd share with you.
The original recipe came from the National Trust Book of Scones, but as recipes so often are, it's been tweaked here and there.
You will need:
Step one: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. The amount of cinnamon can be pretty flexible depending on your taste, but a teaspoon or two is probably a good place to start. Add the butter and rub in to create the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Step two: Peel and dice the apples, add them to the mix and give a quick stir.
Step three: Stir the milk and egg together, before gradually adding to the dry ingredients. Add a little at a time. The mixture should come together to a slightly damp but not sloppy dough. Add a little extra milk if required.
Step four: Add the blackberries and mix until they are evenly spread throughout.
Step five: Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 3cm thick. Stamp out the mixture. A 7cm cutter will give you about 10 scones. You can use whatever size cutter you like, just remember this will affect cooking times.
Step six: Place the scones on a lined baking tray and bake in a 190 degrees C oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Ours took 18 minutes. The cooked scones should be well risen and slightly springy to the touch.
Step seven: Cool slightly, then munch away! Best served warm with lashings of clotted cream... and maybe even a dollop of bramble jam if you fancy.
Chef's top tips...
After several mishaps Alex has learnt a few scone making tricks and she's kindly sharing them with you.
Our current author is our AAG Committee member Pen Bailey. If you would like to be a guest blogger please do contact us here at AAG