Hi, my name is Zoë Morrison and I am the author of Eco Thrifty Living. I have learned so much about being eco-friendly, saving money and setting healthy limits when it comes to both of those activities!
Disclaimer – this post contains an affiliate link marked with an asterix and I was sent a Wonderbag to review for this post.
Have you heard of Wonderbags*? They are a type of thermal cooker, which is like a slow cooker, except you can’t plug them in. They use no energy! To use a Wonderbag you have to heat up and cook a pan of food first for a bit. The pan needs to be one with short handles as otherwise it wouldn’t fit into the bag. Then you place the hot pan on a trivet or heat proof mat, which you put inside the bag first (you provide the trivet and the pan). You put the cushion lid inside, pull the drawstring and then leave it to do it’s magic for a few hours!
How to make pasta sauce in a Wonderbag
I tested it out by making a use-it-up variation on my basic pasta sauce recipe . I made the basic recipe. Then I added in various chopped vegetables from my fridge that needed using up including some broccoli, courgette and carrots. To start with I cooked the sauce on my hob for around 30 minutes and made sure it was thoroughly heated through. Then I placed it in the Wonderbag on a wooden mat. Finally I left it for around 3 hours to continue slow cooking! Although the sauce would have been technically cooked before it went in the Wonderbag, slow cooking it, brings out the flavour in the tomato and makes the sauce much tastier. It came out great and after it had cooled down I portioned it out into containers to freeze and use another time!
More info about Wonderbags
I like the ethos behind the Wonderbag. For each bag bought some money is donated to the Wonderbag foundation to ‘support Wonderfeasts and subsidize Wonderbags to communities across the world’
The Wonderbag comes with a handy cookbook and guide to timings for how long different foods can be left in the bag. You can also check out their website for recipes and information about how to use it here: wonderbagworld.com . I’m looking forward to experimenting with it more and seeing what else I can make in it!
If you are thinking of buying one, make sure you get the right size for your pan. There are different sized bags.
I’m so excited to have my book available in print! You can get a copy here: Eco Thrifty Living the print version . If you do buy a copy, please please leave me a review. It will help other people make an informed decision about whether to buy it or not. Feedback can also help me improve!
Why in print?
I know some people will ask why I’m doing a printed copy – what about the trees? Well surprisingly to me, most people I have told about my book want a print copy. Lot’s of people don’t have Kindles or e-readers. Also it is a reference book and the print copy has space to make notes in it. Some books do make more sense in print. Yes there is still the issue of the trees, but I’m hopeful that anyone reading the book, will take actions that will offset the environmental impact of the book and then some.
Ok so I’ve made a printed copy, but why Amazon? I have chosen to self-publish through Amazon for a few reasons.
It doesn’t cost me any money to publish on Amazon, meaning I don’t have any start up costs to worry about. They take a commission on any sales I make, plus they take the printing costs of the book.
It helps me reach a wider audience than I could reach if I was just selling through my blog
They print on demand, which means that if someone orders a book, then they print one. There aren’t loads of unsold books sitting in a storeroom somewhere that might get chucked out one day and I like that lack of waste!
I don’t have to wait for a publisher, which could take a long time and I think the sooner my book can get out there in the world and help people the better!
Want to buy direct?
Still would prefer to buy directly from me? I’m working on that one and will be looking into possibly buying author copies from Amazon to start off with and then depending on sales I will look into more eco-friendly printing methods.
So watch this space to see what happens next. In the meantime, you can get your copy either on Kindle or in print ! Happy reading and I look forward to your feedback on the book! Also for a review of the book check out this blog post on the Homegrown and Foraged blog: Eco Thrifty Living – book review and interview .
Last night a great new series started called War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita. I went onto Twitter afterwards. Lots of people were commenting things, like why can’t we use paper bags, or compostable packaging or glass bottles and tins instead of plastic?
I think it is fantastic that the problem of plastic is being highlighted. Let’s not call to replace one problem with another though. Food waste was also not mentioned at all in the program.
Firstly packing produce in plastic is done deliberately to extend the shelf life of a product. Sometimes it is filled with special gases, or given just the right amount of ventilation. It means that food can sit on the supermarket shelves longer before being sold and means less food waste at the supermarket end of things. If supermarkets got rid of this packaging, they would have to rethink how they keep food fresh. They would have to put less food out on the shelves. It would probably mean that they would need more regular deliveries and that the food wouldn’t last as long when it gets home. We might have to go shopping more often.
Not all produce needs the packaging though and sometimes there is some really unnecessary packaging e.g. when a fruit with a skin is peeled and then wrapped, or carrots are chopped and then packaged, or when there is more packaging than actually needed. So supermarkets should focus on reducing that first and we can chop our own carrots and peel our own fruit!
What can we do instead? I think the best solution is to bring your reusable bags and containers. BUT they need to be long lasting and reused a lot of times. Take a look at this handy table which shows how many times different bags of diferent materials need reusing . It recommends avoiding organic cotton bags. They need reusing a whopping 20,000 times to compare with the ‘reuses necesssary to have the same cumulative environmental impact (water use, energy use, etc) as a classic plastic bag!’
*Ad* If you want to know more about how to save money and the environment check out my new book (currently available on Kindle and will be out in print soon). It is also packed with tips on how to reduce the plastic in your life! https://ecothriftyliving.com/book
Eco Thrifty Living the book is now available to buy on your Kindle! This book is an introduction to and an overview of how to save money and the environment. In it I bring together the things I have learned throughout the last 8 years of writing this blog. I think (of course I’m slightly biased) that it is well worth a read.
It is filled with practical tips and advice and my real life stories of how I got on with or didn’t get on with eco and money saving ideas! There are 11 chapters in the book, covering topics like reducing your kitchen waste, eco-thrifty gardening and sustainable fashion.
If you are new to my blog, reading the book would be an ideal starting point for your eco-thrifty journey. If you are a regular reader, then you will find anecdotes in the book that I haven’t shared on the blog and it will be a great refresher to go back through the tips and advice I have shared over the years. Plus it is an organised and concise format and is a helpful reference.
I want to say a huge thank you to my husband for everything he has done to help with the blog and the book. It would never have happened without him! I also want to thank my parents and my friends for all their help and support. Plus a massive thank you to you guys, my readers for reading the blog over the years!
It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point and I’m so pleased I have finally done it! It would be great that if you buy it, that you could leave me a review and if you have some constructive criticism or tips on how I could make it better please let me know. It is my first book and my first time self publishing though so go easy on me please! I really hope the book helps and inspires you and that you enjoy reading it!
Do you ever finish a DIY project and end up with bits you don’t need? A tin of paint, some old decking, a kitchen sink? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place you could go to give them away so that someone else could make use of them. How about a place that you could check to see if unwanted DIY materials were available for free for a project you want to do? Well now there is and it’s called DIYGogo! An innovative new website for giving away unwanted DIY waste. I interviewed Alex from DIYGogo who told me more about the site.
Tell me about DIYGogo
DIYGogo is a new website dedicated to repurposing DIY waste. We are a National Lottery funded Community Interest Company, with the following core objectives :
To increase up-cycling and reuse of unwanted DIY materials
To increase property maintenance and restoration opportunities for the financially marginalised.
To reduce the amount of DIY waste going to incineration and landfill
The service is intended for for anyone to use including individuals and businesses across the UK. Both the service and the items are free – we cover our overheads from donations made by users.
Why did you set up the site?
Through my experience in the building trade, I noticed that an incredible amount of materials that could be reused would end up in the skip. Things like sinks, baths, kitchen units, timber, tiles, insulation, windows and more. The point came when I felt I had to try and do something about it. Especially now that our choices bear more heavily then ever. So I decided to set up DIYGogo around 2 years ago so that people could give their unwanted DIY waste away to be up-cycled.
There are various sites that you can give things away for free on. What is the advantage to posting DIY stuff on DIYGogo
There are other sites that serve to up-cycle unwanted goods, such as Freegle and Freecycle. However, these services don’t directly address the DIY sector. I felt there was a need for a service dedicated to up-cycling DIY reusables. The website is organised into DIY categories to make the search process simple, and every consideration has been taken to ensure the website is easy, convenient and safe for the user.
What is your vision for the future of DIYgogo?
In future we’d like to look into social development programmes, such as running course at schools; exploring the concept of up-cycling, using construction as an example. By demonstrating the potential of ‘waste’, we can contribute to the shift towards a more balanced society, that I see as so fundamental for the sake of our future. We’d also like to provide free courses to the community to develop DIY skills – brick laying for example. These skills can then be applied as professions, helping individuals to finding work or starting up businesses. There’s many ways we could take it, so it’s pretty exciting!
Get involved and join in with the DIYgogo Big Exchange on the 22nd April, by posting as many DIY re-usables as you can to really help things going. So if you have any bricks, tins of paint, timber or baths lying around, please stick them up on DIYgogo. No disposal trips or costs for you, you’d be helping others, and you’re doing something for the environment. Big thanks!
Thanks to Alex from DIYGogo for answering my questions. Let’s help him make this project a success – either by joining in on the 22nd April or trying out the site next time you have some DIY waste!
I have news about my book. The cover is ready as you can see above. However I’m not going to publish it by the end of the week. The deadline has been really helpful to me though and I am really glad I have been working towards it as I have made loads of progress.
The reason for my delay is that finishing the book is one thing, but I have realised there is more to it than that. All the finishing touches and getting it actually published and launched is going to take a little while. I want to get it right!
Sorry for the delay everyone and I will keep you posted on what is going to happen next. Please keep a look out for my next book update!
Yesterday I got up really early to go to London to find out about Gazelle – a phone recycling company. Phone recycling isn’t a new idea in this country. However Gazelle is changing the game! They are bringing their phone recycling kiosks over from the US where they have been in business for 10 years, to the UK. These machines are designed to make it easy and convenient to recycle our phones.
They are really simple to use and are very clever. You take your old phone along, put it in the machine and it 3D scans it and then gives you a quote for how much the phone is worth. You don’t have to sell it at this point and can take it back out if you have second thoughts about it. If you do want to sell it though, you continue through the process and can either choose to get paid by PayPal or direct to your bank account. It takes under 10 minutes to go through the whole process.
You can take any phone in any condition to be recycled. I took along a very old broken phone with no battery in it to try in their demo machine they were showing and got offered a £1 for it. I think that is much better than having to find another way to recycle it and way better than it going in the bin! I might have been able to get more for it if I had been able to turn it on as they would have been able to see that it worked. They recommend turning phones on before putting it in the machine so that they can offer the best price for it.
They say that phones are either sold on, refurbished to be sold on or are recycled and that nothing goes to landfill. They work with companies that recycle every part of the phones. The refurbished phones are sold on in various ways including to developing countries.
They really care about the environment and want as little waste as possible. On their website it says they have diverted 19 million cell phones and tablets from landfill and that in those devices they have saved 670,206 pounds of copper, 1425 pounds of gold and 14668 pounds of silver for reuse! (They aren’t accepting tablets in the UK at the moment, but do in the US).
That said I did notice that before you put your phone in to be scanned they print out a sticker that you need to put on the back of your phone. There is a little slot to put the plastic from the back of the sticker in the machine and I think they recycle that (I asked two people – one said they did, one said they don’t, so not sure on the verdict on that one). Either way they collect the rubbish and deal with it themselves.
I wanted to know how they make sure they are competitive and give good prices for phones. They said that they update the prices daily and are constantly checking market value. They said you might get quoted slightly more for recycling through a website. However the online quote is often a rough guide until they have seen your phone and it might not be the final price you get offered. You won’t have that problem at a Gazelle kiosk as they will pay out straight away. I can’t say for sure if the prices are competitive, but I think their key selling point will be that they make it so easy.
The kiosks are being put in really easily accessible places like shopping centres and supermarket foyers. Currently they are mainly in the midlands in Morrisons supermarkets, but they have plans to expand all over the UK within the next couple of years.
Before I went yesterday my husband told me to ask them about fraud. Well they answered that question with bells on. So if you are thinking that this is the start of a great career as a phone thief, I would think again.
You have to be over 18 to use the machines and you have to take your driving license with you. You put your driving license into the machine and the kiosk films you and someone in Gazelle checks via the camera that you are who you say you are. If the phone has been reported as lost or stolen, then the phone will not be returned and they will have your picture on camera.
If you are worried about data on the phones, firstly you should wipe them before selling them, but if you forget Gazelle say they will only work with companies that data wipe the phones before doing anything else with them.
A lot of people don’t recycle their phones because although there are lots of companies offering phone recycling services, you have to go out of your way to find a website, fill out all the details and send it off. On top of that if the phone is very old or broken, you would probably think you wouldn’t get much for it. This means there are lots of phones going to landfill and sitting around unused in our homes. Phones are full of toxic materials and we really don’t want them going to landfill. Recycling them or selling them on is the best option when you have finished with them. I think these Gazelle machines might be changing the story for old phones in the UK in the near future!
Final word about Gazelle, after the meeting they sent us home with goody bags and I know these people care about the environment, because of their attention to detail in the bag! From the bag itself to the 3 things that were in it. A bamboo coffee cup, a wood coated USB stick and a wood coated portable battery charger. Yes there was a little bit of plastic, but overall I think they tried really hard to avoid it and I was really impressed!
I’m looking forward to them coming down South so that I can get recycling – got just a few phones to sell as you can see from the picture at the top!
Octopus Energy is a green energy provider with a difference. They want to help their customers have more energy efficient homes and they are being proactive about it. They’re not just giving advice on what to do, they have purchased 100 thermal imaging cameras that attach to your phone and allows you to take pictures of your home! You can use these cameras to find out where the cold spots in your home are and where you are losing the most heat. Then you know where to make changes.
They’re loaning them, completely free to customers who’ve been identified as using more energy than average for the size of their home. You don’t have to be on their list to ask for one though, any customer can request to borrow one. Octopus Energy are loaning them out free for a week and they’re also paying for postage and packaging for them both ways. If you want to borrow the camera for slightly longer you can do this for just £1 a day.
We are happy customers of Octopus Energy. We switched to them a couple of years ago because we liked their affordable green energy tariffs! You can read more about that here: This blog is now powered by Octopus Energy.
We could borrow a camera from them too, but my husband has wanted a thermal imaging camera for years and recently when my dad had a leak in his home, he managed to convince him to buy one! These cameras are useful in lots of ways, not just saving energy. Anyway in the end my dad found the leak without the need for the camera and now we are ‘borrowing’ it. We’ve had lots of fun taking pictures of ourselves with it and trying to read our auras (they use the same cameras to take pictures of auras). We have also been slightly more sensible and taken pictures of our home to work out where we can improve energy efficiency.
We are already doing a lot to save energy but during the recent really cold spell I still found our house pretty cold and so the thermal camera has been able to lead us to the exact spots where we need to warm things up! As you can see from the picture, there are cold spots all around our front door. We do have draft excluders stuck on to the door already but it looks like we could do better!
If you like the idea of borrowing a thermal imaging camera and moving to an affordable green energy supplier, Sign up to Octopus Energy hereand you and I will both earn £50 credit off our energy bills!
It’s sooo cold!!!! The last couple of weeks it’s been sub zero temperatures in the mornings. All this cold weather has been making me think about what I can do to keep our heating bills down. To start with I spent a lot of time advancing the heating and snuggling up to the nearest radiator. That’s not ideal and it inspired me to think some more about how to stay warm for less!
Ways we reduce our heating bills and you can too:
We have done lots of things to keep the heat in and the cold out already.
We (aka my husband) fitted an extra thick layer of loft insulation to stop the heat escaping through the roof .
We safety pinned two duvets together to keep us extra warm at night. Minor downside of that – my husband gave me a fright in the middle of the night last night. I woke up to hear him say ‘stay where you are’. One of the safety pins had come undone and got him. These combination duvets* are a more sensible option. They are designed to be joined together!
When home alone I put a thick dressing gown on with a hood and wear slipper socks to keep warm!
All of this hasn’t been enough to keep me warm when I’m home alone in the day time though. So I’ve been trying to limit my time in the house on my own and spending some time in cafes writing. I take my reusable mug with me and get them to fill that up, because that way I can make a cup of tea stay last for ages!
Taking things further:
I was surprised that even though we have done a lot to keep the heat in our home, it hasn’t been enough. We have more work to do. So I decided two things:
I am going to investigate further where the heat is escaping in our home. Most of our house isn’t carpeted and I think a large part of the problem is a lack of rugs.
To start up a Facebook group: Energy saving tips and tricks UK , so that I can pick all your brains for tips :). Well more than that I thought it would be great to have a like minded community of people who want to save energy to share and exchange ideas with! It is a group to discuss all kinds of energy saving tips and tricks, not just how to keep heating bills low. Come and join the group and chat to other like minded people who want to save energy too!
Although I have found it a bit annoying that my house has been so cold, it has actually had a plus side. I’ve found that going to cafes is working really well. I stay off the wifi and get lots of writing done!
This blog post contains affiliate links marked with * and anything you buy through them will help to support the blog as I will get a small commission. Thanks! All opinions are my own and it won’t cost you anything extra to use the links.
I believe in self help. The person best positioned to help me get to where I want to be in life, is me! That doesn’t mean doing everything by myself. It means creating the circumstances which I need to be successful. At the moment my main focus is on helping myself finish my book. So I’m going to share with you, some of the steps I’m taking to set myself up for success. Most of these steps are very low cost or free, which is great!
1. As you know I’ve set a deadline and made it public:
I have started up a day time writing meetup. I couldn’t find any advertised anywhere so I posted in a local writers Facebook group and now I have some new friends – brilliant! We are going to meet up weekly to write together and to encourage and inspire each other. It will help me stick to my original book writing plan and to build on it. I know from my experience of running a half marathon, that consistent and regular action week in week out is what brings results. It also really helped me to have friends to take that consistent action with and I’m really looking forward to the journey ahead with my new writing buddies.
4. I am getting educated on the subject of writing and publishing
‘The Successful Author Mindset’ by Joanna Penn* is all about the mental and emotional challenges writers face throughout the writing journey and it was just what I needed to read! One of my favourite quotes from Joanna – ‘The creative journey is the point and there is no final end game’. I don’t just want to publish this book, I want to write and publish lots of books (I have more ideas than time to pursue them right now!) and so I might as well get comfortable and enjoy the ride! Joanna warns against using a writing group to critique each others work, so I’m going to take that tip on board at my new writing group.
To help me get in the right frame of mind day in, day out, I have put up loads of inspiring quotes above my desk. One I love is ‘If you want success, figure out the price and then pay it’ – Scott Adams (found in the book I mentioned above by Joanna Penn). It’s made me realise that as much as I love running, I’m going to have to take some time off from it if I want to make inroads into this book. So for the next two weeks, I am going to stay at home and be anti-social and focus on the book.
6. I’m measuring my progress.
When you start writing a book it is fairly simple to measure progress by word count. However once you get to the editing part word count isn’t helpful. So what I’ve decided to do is to allocate certain amounts of time on the various jobs left to do. That way I can put a limit on how much time I spend on each of them and I can measure my progress.
7. I’m getting help with the bits I’m not good at.
I’ve booked in to work on my cover design and book layout in a couple of weeks time with a cover/ layout designer. I do think this is worth spending money on and I feel it will add to my motivation once I can see the cover!
In conclusion, my 7 steps for setting myself up for success are:
Set a clear goal with a deadline that you can’t get out of
Set specific smaller goals and targets within your larger goal and target. Measure progress against them and celebrate meeting them!
Take consistent and regular action towards meeting your goal.
Make time for learning tips, tricks and techniques from people who have been there and done that!
Make the journey easier and more fun by getting a supportive group around you with similar aims and goals
Surround yourself with reminders and inspiration, so that you can’t forget about what you have decided to work towards! Also they can help keep you going during the tough bits!
Recognise my strengths and weaknesses and get help when needed!
I am feeling really enthusiastic about getting my head down and working hard on the book. So I am going to skip a week of book update on the blog and will let you know in 2 weeks time how I am getting on. Until then!
Note: this blog post contains an affiliate link marked with * – any purchases you make through it will make me a very small amount of money and will help to support the blog. It won’t affect the price you pay in any way. Thanks!