Seven Steps to Sustainable Living.

Ok, so reading this won’t turn you into an off-grid permaculturalist, but I hope it will give those, still unwavering slaves to major brands, some simple steps to going a little greener. It’s easy to be green. Going green, or greener, doesn’t have to be hard work or expensive. In fact, it is often far cheaper to buy ethically, or even make your own, with many basic products. Stop! Don’t panic, I’m not asking that you go and whip up a batch of cleaning spray, but just to ‘stop and think’, with every purchase or habit – could this be done more sustainably and possibly more cheaply in another way? It’s about change and growth and new ideas; yes you’ve always used that brand of deodorant, but could you be missing out on one that is more effective and better for you? Perhaps that supermarket you shop at is draining more that just your bank balance, and although your local farm shop cannot claim to compete with these giants for quantity, it sure can on quality. Who on earth needs a billion food products wrapped in plastic anyway?!

Below is a list of seven really, really simple ways to go greener and improve not only your own health, but the health of those you love and you’ll help to save the planet while doing so!

1. Buy recycled toilet tissue.
This to me, seems a complete no-brainer, I genuinely have no idea why there is a market for luxury loo roll, but millions of Britons everyday, still feel the need to spend lots of their hard-earned pounds on quilted, patterned and frilly rolls of toilet tissue that is simply going to be flushed away seconds after use! For the same money or at times even less (depending on where you shop) you can purchase loo roll that has been made from recycled material. For all your guilt-free bottom wiping needs!

2. Visit your local farm shop or farmers market.
We have two glorious farm shops nearby; Pluckley Farm Shop which also has a fabulous range of local preserves and handmade goodies, and The 4 Seasons Farm Shop which in addition to the usual veggie-shaped wares, sells homemade gluten free cakes and even stocks coconut oil! Whilst you may not be able to – or want to – do your entire weekly shop at your local farm store, you will be surprised just how much you can purchase and it’s fun too! I regularly take my children to visit farmers markets in the local area and really enjoy meeting other like-minded families, visiting the gorgeous places they’re often held in and seeing what’s actually is season. [You will not find strawberries in February] Remember organic isn’t fancy – it’s the original way to shop and eat; our grand parents didn’t have ‘organic’ food because their shopping was intrinsically more seasonal, local and organic than it is now. They also didn’t do ‘big shops’ – they shopped locally and regularly. Plus, as my grandfather did; most families grew at least some varieties of vegetables at the bottom of the garden.

3. Walk or cycle more.
It’s a sign of the times and we are all guilty of jumping into the car for those short journeys that really could be walked or cycled. We live busy lives these days and it’s often due to time constraints that we resort to burning petrol, as we have a million and one things to get done in that half hour we have before starting work. To offset this, try spending time in your local area at the weekend or on holidays, exploring on foot or two-wheels when you do have time to roam. My children and I recently discovered a whopping great blackberry bush not far from home whilst out walking together, so we now have even more beautiful free fruit to pick, as well as saving the planet by spending our family time in this way! Result!

4. Try crafting!
It’s a simple, productive and therapeutic hobby. I save up pretty jars, lovely card fronts and ribbons from gifts I receive and turn them into beautiful hand made items for future gifts (or my own enjoyment!) At christmas I did hampers for my mother and mother-in-law, each filled with some paid-for farm shop produce and some handmade items such as chutneys and jams, inside reused jars. Many of us claim not to have time for such endeavours but I challenge you to drop a TV program (or three) each week and try it! We are all far more creative than we usually give ourselves credit for so try a new hobby, save money and help the planet while you do so!

5. Reuse and redistribute some of the waste water in your home.
This really is so easy and so valuable, especially during Summer when thirsty plants and lawns need daily watering. So much waste water is simply poured down the drain each day in the UK, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to harvest and use more of the grey water in your home. Grey-water recycling systems are wonderful and I certainly have one on my wish list but in the meantime, I keep a pretty jug out on my kitchen windowsill ready for filling and distributing waste water at any time; be it from my morning kettle, washing-up bowl or tumble dryer, it can be used to keep those plants and veg patches happy! Oh and set up a water butt outside, they’re brilliant!

6. Buy ethical brands.
Ok so not all of us have the time or inclination to make cleaning products from scratch and we all want results right? Just buy from greener companies and you can have your fix of ready-made, shop bought products but at much less of a cost to the earth as your traditional choices might be. Ecover is not without its faults, but is a great go-to-brand for easy greener cleaning, with typically much less harsh chemicals that it’s relatives on the shelves and its a company that at least has the right idea. Selecting a weekly food box from an online company such as Abel and Cole, not only gives you an organic health boost and saves time but also contributes your money to companies who are at least trying to work in a sustainable way. They even stock all your store cupboard essentials, including a growing vegetarian/vegan range and lots of the cleaning range from Ecover.

7. Save on heating.
Please don’t switch on your heating system yet!! It’s the end of August and I am already hearing people say that they’ve turned on their heating in order to stay warm. This is not ‘staying warm’. This is complete unnecessary indulgence and it’s costing you money as well as burning fuel that harms the planet. Save the heating for the depths of snowy winter and instead, for now, shut your windows, put on a jumper and keep warm by moving more; perhaps by doing your new greener hobbies or a daily yoga session. You’ll keep fitter, feel happier and sleep better. Anyway central heating is notoriously bad for your health so again, reap the benefits of choosing a more sustainable way to keep warm!

Well there you have it! Seven sustainable living ideas that are so simple you can get going right away. So go on, change your life today, give yourself a challenge and see where this new direction takes you.

Jaime x

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My Handmade Wedding

On the 27th July, 2014, I married my partner, the father of my children, best friend and soul mate. It took just over a year to plan and create our dream vintage-style wedding, which of course made use of plenty of homemade crafts, as well as specially sourced items to keep things individual and ethical. I sourced the majority of items locally (Kent and Oxfordshire) and borrowed some gorgeous pieces from friends who were still storing items from their own weddings.

Having grown up in Oxford, I had always planned on holding my wedding here. It’s where the majority of my family and friends are, as well as being the most beautiful place in its own right. For the venue itself, we chose Hawkwell House Hotel in the small conservation village of Iffley, which was able to provide us a basic package for the day and after lots of research, their’s worked out to be the most viable option for our fairly large wedding. They also have a license for outdoor ceremonies which was what I really wanted and worked out perfectly for us on the day. Having a package saved us so much time and enabled us to start from a basic point of necessity (ceremony, canapés, meal, disco etc) and then build it up from there. Our ‘afternoon tea package’ was a slight upgrade on the norm and instead of traditional canapés our guests would be treated to a proper afternoon tea with scones, cakes and sandwiches. Our package even included some flowers!  Hawkwell House and their wedding coordinator Gary, were incredibly flexible and accommodating, I would thoroughly recommend this venue to anyone considering getting married here! Gary himself, couldn’t do enough for us and even with all my ‘extra decorations’ created the most beautiful wedding for us on the day, without any practical intervention from us. It was perfect!

Our photography was done by local Kent wedding photographer, Livvy Hukins who was recommended by a friend. Upon meeting her it was instantly clear that she adored free-spirited, outdoorsy weddings as much as us and was the perfect choice for our upcoming wedding. Livvy is competitively priced and even offered a fun engagement shoot as part of our photography package. We did this at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent and although the wedding was ultimately held in Oxford, it was lovely to involve our local area in the wedding in this way.

'Pooh Sticks'

‘Pooh Sticks’

Our flowers were provided by another local company, Blooming Green. I saw this ethical company develop on a TV show several years ago and couldn’t believe my luck when it became clear they were based locally! I had saved their details then – so I couldn’t wait to contact them about my forthcoming wedding.  Blooming Green operate from a lovely rural site not far from Maidstone but handle online wedding orders with ease. Due to their organic, seasonal, completely ethical methods, colour themes need to be flexible as choice is completely dictated by the seasons, but  who wouldn’t want an array of stunning seasonal blooms? I was able to go for pastel colours for my bridal bouquet which felt like a cottage garden border in my hand.   The button holes and bridesmaids’ bouquets matched this pastel colour scheme and we opted for some stunning bold and bright colours for our thank you bouquets.  We were even able to order an extra bucket of flowers in the same pastel shades, which I used to dress the venue in addition to the flowers already provided. The commercial flower industry in the UK has a huge carbon footprint as customers desire for prescise colours and complete perfection pushes florists to import flowers from all over the world. Using a local, ethical company such as Blooming Green, enabled me to reduce the carbon footprint of my wedding and provided us with the most beautiful flowers on the day. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful flowers!

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Stunning bridal bouquets by Blooming Green.

Stunning bridal bouquets by Blooming Green.


Something Old.

When I began my planning last year, I started with my dress which I found second-hand online, after searching for a stockist. I hadn’t actually planned on doing it this way, I had been given the ‘code’ of my dream dress at my local bridal shop who had been unable to stock it for me and so when I found it online for £200 in almost my exact size, it was the perfect discovery and my first true ‘vintage’ item. I used a local dressmaker and paid around £60 for the alterations. I felt beautiful on the day.

After finding my dress, I thoroughly got the ‘second hand bug’ and after securing the afternoon tea package at the venue, began to source vintage crockery for my guests to use on the day. I pulled in a team of mums, aunts and friends to scour charity shops and jumble sales in order to collect enough duos, trios, sugar bowls, milk jugs and tea pots for around 60 guests. This ended up being so much fun and we found some gorgeous, even valuable, pieces lurking on charity shop shelves around Kent and Oxford. In fact, our final collection is so beautiful that I am considering going into business; ‘Mis-match tea service available to hire for all your vintage style occasions! ‘ [Enquiries welcome!]

A mis-matched tea service added to the vintage feel.

A mis-matched tea service added to the vintage feel.

I used second hand/vintage pieces throughout my wedding and these items thoroughly enhanced the atmosphere on the day. Here are some of the other items I bought and upcycled:

Second-hand birdcages filled with flowers became perfect table centres.

Second-hand birdcages filled with flowers became perfect table centres.

A grotty old step ladder which I bought locally for a fiver, which with the addition of some pretty vintage items and a handmade, personalised sign from Vintage Sign Boutique (who also have a brilliant ebay shop), turned into this gorgeous welcome signpost!

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A stack of truly dilapidated old suitcases, from which I created my table plan. In keeping with my slight ‘travel’ theme (each table was a different
Oxfordshire town) I used a string of luggage tags for table listings and printed an old fashioned postcard for the top table; ‘The Oxford’ (naturally) In the base of the suitcase I placed a couple of old maps and a beautiful vintage camera, which was being sold as a non-
working prop on Ebay.

      

 

 

- A huge old coal scuttle, for flowers (and now a beautiful unique umbrella stand in my home!)  

– A huge old coal scuttle, for flowers (and now a beautiful unique umbrella stand in my home!)

 

Something New:

I just love crafting and the wedding provided the perfect opportunity to go craft mad; making new items just as I wanted them.

wedding 10 I decided from the start that I wanted to make my own invitations and using a template I was able to print my      desired design onto specialist paper, found in my local craft shop Cross’s in Ashford. I bought matching envelopes  and tied the cards together with pretty organza ribbon to create the finished invite. Our gift request was a simple  rhyme which I printed onto labels and stuck onto luggage tags which were tied onto each finished invitation. photo 1

I created this gorgeous bunting using a stack of floral off-cuts bought online and used it for the ceremony and in the wedding breakfast room. (Tutorial to follow – be sure to subscribe!)

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I used a pile of leftover paper doilies to create these lovely paper lanterns (Tutorial coming soon – be sure to follow the blog!) which Gary, our wedding coordinator stung up high in the trees outside for us. These added such a magical touch to the outside ceremony.

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I also made the favours, which doubled up as place holders; by upcycling single (missing their sets) or slightly cracked teacups into scented candles for all my female guests and, using organza bags, into cute sweetie holders for the the men and the children. Making the candles was so therapeutic and it was really fun making something so individual for all my friends. Thank you Helen for sharing your gorgeous kitchen with me in order to make the first batch! I thoroughly recommend candle-making with friends (and wine!) for a fun Friday evening! Look out for the tutorial coming soon on Green Dreams and Yoga!

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Where the items couldn’t be sourced second hand, made from scratch, or we simply ran out of time (it happens!) the local high street and online shopping sites really came into their own. We bought the flower girls’ dresses from Debenhams during the sale, using some gift cards we had saved and my beautiful mis-match bridesmaid dresses were each sourced separately from Ebay, Marks and Spencer, New Look and House of Fraser. The girls bought or used their own shoes which saved lots of time and only added to the mis-matched occasion!

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These beautiful handmade garlands were purchased online from Blooming Loopy, and were made to fit using measurements given when ordering. Our girls looked stunning on the day and the beautiful flower garlands were robust enough for even the roughest of play!

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Another floral treat was our beautiful bio-degradeable confetti; grown, produced and delivered by Shropshire Petals, as featured recently on BBC 1’s Countryfile!  Our guests loved the confetti cones and had great fun creating a beautiful shower of eco-friendly petals, as we returned up the aisle!

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For a bit of fun, we ordered this tongue-in cheek newspaper article, which was personalised online. My  bridesmaids  provided further guest entertainment with a sweepstake which raised money for Kent base  children’s charity;  Abbie’s Army and a fun card game, featuring fun questions and words of wisdom which has  become an amazing  keepsake for us.

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Something borrowed.

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Although much of my items were bought second-hand or handmade, this beautiful vintage style postbox; available to hire from Corbett Creations in Maidstone, was the perfect addition to my vintage wedding, especially considering my travel theme. Lots of my guests commented on how beautiful this was and it doubled up as a super secure way to store our gifts, especially as gifts were largely monetary.

We borrowed 200m of beautiful bunting from a very dear friend, who had handmade it herself for her own outdoor wedding. Remarkably, it was the perfect length and dressed the wedding breakfast room, perfectly. Having a very loose colour theme helped the lilac-themed bunting to blend in.  We also borrowed some beautiful storm lanterns
from the aforementioned friend, which looked gorgeous alight during the ceremony.

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Our dapper groom and his men were dressed in hired attire from Moss Bros, who stocked the perfect colours to complement the sage green in our loose colour theme.

 

Something blue(sy!)

Ok, so I have shamelessly tried to link this last subtitle to the music and I apologise in advance for the rather tenuous play on words. It does reveal a direction for this last section however and due to the bluesy introduction I am goin to begin at the end (so to speak) and discuss my music in descending order, from disco to ceremony.

As the not-so subtle subtitle suggests we love our blues in all of it’s varying forms from good old Motown to modern R’n’B, our evening party was a disco even 1970s Jackson would be proud of. Our DJs were Dasher and Wazzy, who I am lucky enough to call uncles and am incredibly grateful for their musical gift which they provided on our wedding day. Our guests danced ’til midnight and the party finished off the day perfectly.

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For the wedding breakfast itself, we chose to play a gorgeous compilation album of jazz and blues. This complemented the most formal part of the day perfectly and we had so many positive comments about the dinner music. The nostalgia of this time-gone-by music was thoroughly appreciated by the older generations at our wedding but also added to the atmosphere of the vintage style setting.

Lastly, and perhaps our most lavish and favourite treat was the beautiful string quartet D’aryani, that played during the ceremony and afternoon tea. For around £700 our guests were accompanied from arrival at 12:30 right up to 4:30 when we began to move inside for the meal. We were in awe of this beautiful string group and I will treasure their music always; walking down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, played by a string quartet on the lawn was a dream come true. The icing on the cake was a spontaneous round of applause as the group left to travel home after their four hours of playing. From my guests and I thank you again D’aryani!

 

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Additional credits go to:

My beautiful maid of honour and beauty blog queen, Amy Bambrick of Amy Loves fame, for taking control of my make up and beauty regime!

Family friend and talented hair stylist, Lorraine Ludbrook of Oxford, for turning the entire bridal party into vintage goddesses!

‘Mullions’ – The beautiful house we rented for our wedding week.  Thank you for allowing us to share your wonderful family home.

Summary and tips!

  • Buying clothing second hand can save a fortune and even add an air of authenticity to a vintage/handmade affair. Using a local dressmaker to alter your vintage dress is usually cheaper than going through a bridal shop and a great way to contribute to the local economy.
  • Vintage items collected, handmade or bought at jumble sales can either be resold (perhaps even for a profit if you’ve upcycled and added value!) or turned into a profitable hire business after the occasion. Be creative!
  • Beg, borrow and steal! Ok maybe not the latter, but certainly beg and borrow as much as possible when planning your big day. People are usually thrilled to be a part of the wedding and it’s amazing how many amazing items people have stored in their garages and attics!
  • Make it personal! Sites such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy, advertise individual designers who offer beautiful, often handmade pieces, of which some can even be personalised for that individual quality.
  • When buying new be clever! Plan to shop during sales and save up unused/birthday/refund vouchers. Even supermarkets stock beautiful items these days, so use points systems to your advantage and save or make money along the way.
  • There are a growing number of ethical, organic, local and fair trade companies in the UK, which can provide beautiful guilt-free items for your wedding. So from flowers to food – shop with care and contact your local, green, small retailers for a more sustainable wedding.
  • On average, getting your stationary designed and printed by a specialist company costs around £600-800! For something that will ultimately end up in the recycling bin. Save a huge amount of money and get a more personal result by making your own!
  • Enjoy and savour every moment! There was one piece of advice that I was given again and again by friends, colleagues and family and that was to ‘take time out during the day to savour the moment’ I wholeheartedly agree!

If you’re getting married soon, good luck and I hope you enjoy the preparations as much as I did! I shall be posting some tutorials soon, of some of the makes featured in this post so be sure to click follow and stay up to date!

Jaime x

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Nuts About Laundry?

I moved to Ecover products for my laundry and cleaning a while ago now, to do my bit in reducing the chemicals in the water table (yada yada) and to generally have less harmful substances in my home and on my children’s skin. So when I discovered Indian Soap Nuts or Eco Nuts as they’re also known, I couldn’t have been more excited to give them a try – and I wasn’t disappointed!

These modest brown shells produce natural detergents that provide effective, eco-friendly cleaning for your clothes at a fraction of the cost of traditional chemical-based products. I was given a handful by a very good friend a few weeks ago and I am still getting good results from the same bunch of nuts! I literally couldn’t be more impressed.

The smell is vinegar-esque but is neutralised in the wash, leaving your laundry clean but scent free. I have been using left-over ecover softener up until now but have also tried using none at all and putting the clothes on a cool tumble with a few drops of lavender oil on a muslin. This worked brilliantly and as well as making it smell delicious, the essential oil actually makes the laundry really soft.

Get them here and give nutty laundry a try!

Happy eco living x

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Homemade Whipped Body Butter

Recently, a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of homemade skin care products and after leaving our little craft party (yes craft party) with a pot of creamy deliciousness, needless to say I am now totally hooked. And wonderfully moisturised, naturally.

A simple, good-quality body butter will cost around £12 for 250g or so and that’s at chain-store high-street prices. This homemade butter is much more cost effective, fun to make and includes absolutely no junk, making it great for all the family (and those eco-credentials)

To make you own whipped body butter you will need:

A bain marie (or simply a large saucepan, glass bowl and lid)
A lidded container for storing the finished cream, an old jam jar is fine.
A large pyrex jug or glass bowl for mixing.
Whisk
300g solid butter i.e. cocoa, coconut or shea
100g liquid carrier oil i.e macademia or almond
1/4 tsp Vit E and/or rosehip oil (20 drops)
A few drops of your favourite essential oil

*A google search will give you some great online suppliers for the oils and butters – I usually use Aromantics and/or Naturally Thinking for mine. Remember you are buying in bulk which means you can make it at a fraction of the cost of buying and the resulting products could even be sold at craft fairs, farmers markets or given to friends and family as presents.

Heat the solid butter and carrier oil gently in a bain marie until butter has completely melted. Allow to cool slightly (enough to touch without wincing) before adding the vit E/rosehip, then gradually add a few drops of essential oil until you get the desired fragrance – no more than 14 drops in total though.

Give it all a good stir then pop in the fridge for a couple of hours until cloudy but not yet solid. Whip up until light and creamy and scrape into your desired container to keep for around 12 months.

Slather on and enjoy!

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