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Want to help combat the rising price of food? Grow your own vegetables

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Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that said all aspects of food security were at risk of being affected by global warming.

Other studies have concluded that people can help matters simply by eating more vegetables and less cheese and meat. Growing your own vegetables might therefore help the environment, but can it save you money?

We know that 250g of tomatoes can cost around £1.50 in the supermarket, while a small packet of seeds can be purchased for as little as £1.30. What’s important, however, is that a single tomato plant, grown under the right conditions, can produce up to 3kg of fruit per season – and there are a few other plants out there that can help make a saving.

So in collaboration with Hartley Botanic, supplier of bespoke greenhouses, here are some simple tips on how to grow your own food and save money.

Cucumbers

A plant that is best sowed in early spring within a heated greenhouse, cucumber seeds can be placed in a small pot with seed compost. By placing two seeds on their side into a small hole, you can expect roughly 30-40 fruits per plant, with an estimated cost of 5p per cucumber produced.

The seeds should germinate within one week and when they are roughly 2cm in length. At this point, feel free to remove the weakest plants from the pot, though remember to keep the plants moist and use a stake of garden cane to provide support for the growing plant.

Baby carrots

Baby carrots are one of the best loved vegetables on the dinner table and are relatively easy to grow.  It is important to know, however, that you will need large containers, as their roots can grow in lengths of up to a foot beneath the surface. If you grow the carrot variety known as Early Nantes, their roots are far shorter and may be more convenient.

Again, pop in two seeds per hole and ensure well drained soil. It should take the seeds around two weeks to germinate. After around two months, you should have a large pot of healthy, green foliage, which can be harvested after a further two weeks. Just one £1.50 packet of seeds can save you roughly £3 a kg.

Lettuces

Growing lettuces in full sun is key to successful and healthy growing. Spring and early summer growing is important to beat the frost and cold weather. There are three differing types of hearting lettuces, which are:

– Butterhead lettuces
– Cos types
– Crisphead types

If you want continuity, and a nice supply of lettuce, sow yourself a short row every fortnight and ensure to do so in evening, with water. When harvesting, remember to cut when a heart is formed.

Courgettes

Seeds can be grown in pots from March through to the end of May and require sunny, fertile and moist soil. Unlike cucumbers, ensure that you sow seeds vertically and deeply. Once that the roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, plant them into growing bags in late spring.

Give your courgettes plenty of water, more so when the plants are in flower, and harvest them when they are roughly 10cm in length. Use a sharp knife to sever the fruit and eat them fresh; saving around 38p per courgette.

Sweet peppers

Quite possibly the most popular growing vegetable of recent years, the plants can be grown indoors right up until April. Keep the temperature at around 18-21C to ensure healthy plants.

Once true leaves have formed, transfer the plants into 9cm pots and then into 30cm pots once that the roots fill the smaller ones. You may need to stake and tie the plants if they begin producing heavy fruit. Once done, you can pick the plants once the peppers are green, swollen and glossy.

Anna Watsham is writing on behalf of Hartley Botanic, one of the UK’s premier greenhouse manufacturers and retailers.

Photo: Stephanie Berghaeuser via freeimages

Further reading:

Growing Underground: London’s secret garden

How fruit and veg auctions are putting ‘real food’ on tables every day

Up to 40% of food wasted because of ‘ugliness’

Consumers have ‘immense power’ to make food sustainable

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

Environment

5 Eco-friendly Appliance Maintenance Tips

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Eco-friendly Appliance
Shutterstock Photos - By Punyhong | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/punyhong

Modern day society is becoming ever more conscious about the effects of human consumption on the environment & the planet.

As a collective, more people are considering taking action to positively counteract their environmental footprint. This is accomplished by cutting down on water consumption, recycling and switching from plastic to more sustainable materials. Although most people forget about the additional things that can be done at home to improve your individual eco footprint.

Appliances, for example, can be overlooked when it comes to helping the environment, despite the fact they are items which are found in every household, and if they are not maintained effectively they can be detrimental to the environment. The longer an appliance is used, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so it is essential for you to keep them well maintained.

If you’re considering becoming more eco-conscious, here are 5 handy appliance maintenance tips to help you.

Don’t Forget to Disconnect From Power First

General maintenance of all your appliances start with disconnecting them from power; microwaves, washing machines and ovens all use residual energy when plugged in, so it’s essential to unplug them.

Disconnecting the plugs can help keep them in their best condition, as it ensures no electrical current is running through them whilst they are supposed to be out of use. Additionally, this can help you save on energy bills. By doing this you are minimising your energy footprint.

Here we break down 4 tips to keep the most popular household appliances maintained.

Eco-Friendly Oven Maintenance

Ovens generally require very little maintenance, although it is essential to stay on top of cleaning.

A simple task to make sure you don’t have any issues in the future is to check the oven door has a tight seal. To do this ensure the oven is cold, open the oven door and use your hands to locate the rubber seal. You can now feel for any tears or breaks. If any have occurred simply replace the seal. More oven tips can be read here.

Eco-Friendly Refrigerator Maintenance

When keeping a fridge in good condition, don’t forget about exterior maintenance. Refrigerator coils, although an external fixture, can cause damage when overlooked.

Refrigerator coils can be found either at the front or rear of a fridge (check you user manual if you are unsure of its location). These tend to accumulate various sources of dust and dirt over a substantial time-period, which clog refrigerator coils, causing the refrigerator to have to work twice as hard to stay cool. An easy tip to solve this is to periodically use a vacuum to get rid of any loose dirt.

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Maintenance

Most people tend to remember the basics tasks for maintaining a washing machine, such as not to overload the machine, not to slam the door and to ensure the washing machine is on a solid and level platform.

In addition, it is necessary to routinely do a maintenance wash for your washing machine. This means running an empty wash on the highest temperature setting and letting it complete a full wash to erase any build up and residue. You should repeat this task at least once a month.

Try to schedule this task around your bulk wash load times to save on water consumption.

This will help keep your washing machine in peak working condition.

Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

Dishwasher maintenance can be simple if implemented after every wash cycle.

To keep your best dishwasher hygiene standards, scrape away excess food whilst making sure to keep the filter at the bottom of the cavity empty between cycles. This simple task can be highly effective at preventing food build up from occurring in your dishwasher.

If you need additional tips or tasks you, can reference your manufacturer’s guidebook to check for a full breakdown. You can also head to Service Force’s extensive database of repair and maintenance manuals – including extensive troubleshooting guides for all of the critical appliance maintenance procedures.

In conclusion, you can save both money and energy by keeping your appliances in peak condition. The steps outlined in this guide will help us all preserve the environment and reduce industrial waste from discarded appliances.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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