Make do and Mend – Dec 2009

On this green journey I and others are taking I personally find it far too easy to get carried away and purchase happy. Once you learn about all the wonderful things out there which ‘save the planet’ like wind-up torches, solar powered phone chargers, electric cars and PV panels it is tempting to want them all now. In many ways, rampant consumerism is what got us into this global situation we are in now and I’m pretty sure it isn’t the way out of it.

Whilst reigning myself back from a rant about GDP growth, carbon economies and the green movement (all of which I’m happy to chat with people about at any time especially if they buy me a drink) I thought I’d assess what I am already making do and mending as opposed to chucking old stuff away and buying new. Also if you have to buy some of the paraphernalia of life it’s interesting to see how much of is already recycled at least once before. Our FreeCycle days fit well into this last category.

This is all wrapped up in theories of sustainability and even permaculture so it is all going to be more and more essential in the future when the oil runs out.

Well one of the first big steps following my return to the village was a compost experiment. I had been composting and using the results ever since I could lift a trowel but never before tried to use my own compost to replace the fancy seed and potting compost from the garden centre. I’ve had mixed but improving early results and I do sometimes find that I need a little of the ready-made stuff though where possible from the council source. But with the combination of garden compost, well rotted horse manure, a little ash and a little sand I can get a pretty good approximation of a John Innes. The ash I get from my wood boiler, the manure from next door. The sand will have come a little further but at a push I might be able to raid Burnham beech in the dead of night with a bucket.

The latest initiative I’m trying is re-using envelopes (something my friends have been doing for years). This can be tricky if they are windowed envelopes or smothered in advertising but soon sorted by getting hold of some sticky labels from a company such as or ring 01676 533832. I bought dozens of labels (all made from recycled paper and impeccably made sticky stuff) for pence and they will last for years. It is going one step forward from buying recycled paper envelopes in my view.

I could bore you with other stuff I’ve been trying but if anyone has any particularly interesting approaches feel free to contact me by email or address below and I can feature them in a future article or even on our website.

PS Fingers crossed for Copenhagen!

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