Green Family

    Castell Carreg Cennen

    While I predominantly use this platform to share ideas on sustainable living occasionally I like to share snippets of my family life and our days out.  And what better family day out is there than a visit to a very old Castle on the top of a mountain in Wales.

    Castell Carreg Cennen has been one of my favourite places to visit for a long time. I think it is the combination of driving through the black mountains which is a beautiful experience in itself and then being the first person to spot the castle in the distance as you get closer.

    I was not  that invested in history lessons when at school, perhaps they focused too heavily on Welsh chapels, workhouses, Welsh Not (which is quite a fascinating period of linguistic history and makes me proud to be a Welsh speaker) but overall didn’t take the subject very seriously or treat it with the interest and fascination I do now. I think if history lessons took place in castle’s like Carreg Cennen then as a subject it would be a lot more popular.

    I have always loved visiting Castles and Castell Carreg Cennen is one I feel I will always revisit. Plus on my most recent visit on Easter Sunday we discovered they offer bottomless coffee, an American concept that is actually appreciated when you are parents to a curious and feisty toddler.

    The car park at the bottom leads you to the cafe and shop, before you climb the steep but really easy walk up to the ruins. I love cafe’s and especially ones where everything on offer is homemade. The smells from the kitchen were divine. We had coffee, soup, sandwiches and lots of cakes were enjoyed. The only tiny qualm I have is that their menu was limited if you avoid dairy or are vegan:( (no dairy-free milk options either- but it’s OK I have become used to  black coffee).

    The views from the top are just sublime: rolling hills, farms, sheep, lots and lots of sheep and as it’s Spring, lambs too. All shades of green, clouds changing from light blues to ominous greys and of course we experienced a few rain clouds bursting above is- when in Wales…

    And although the Bean was determined to stay fixed in his poppoo on his father’s back, in the end it was probably the best place for him. The castle has some very steep steps and not really suitable for  a 20-month old to roam freely. Luckily, he seemed intent on being very lazy which gave us the chance to take in the views from the many vantage points.

    You can explore the surrounding areas and there are longer walks you can do to reach the castle starting from nearby Trappe and Llandeilo if you want to integrate the castle into a walking expedition.  Both of these little communities are worth a visit, and I am told that Llandeilo has a brilliant Gin bar!

    Green Earth Green Family

    Pottering and peace

    Sometimes days spent doing ‘nothing’ but pottering: picking flowers, wandering around, eating avocados and drinking lots of your favourite teas are the most peaceful and turn out to be your favourite of all. This has been our Easter Monday, and while we accomplished two walks and visited a castle over the Easter weekend, I have enjoyed the slow, meditative pace of just being today.

    Breakfast: avocados, chilli, lime and spinach cooked in garlic

    On the Sunday we visited Castell Carreg Cennin

    In fact, I think I appreciated it all the more because it started off quite catastrophically with three of us being knocked down again with a bout  of diarrhea and vomiting. The three of us, Bean, my mum and myself were out for at least 36 hours but thankfully made a full recovery in time for Good Friday and the festivities that were ahead. (It’s really frustrating being ill ahead of a long awaited party or long national holiday isn’t it?)

    The Bean loves to forage for flowers

    Although there has been busyness and lots of food has been eaten and drinks drank, one of my favorite parts was this afternoon when the Bean and I simply walked up and down and an old canal picking flowers, looking at the trees, the berries, the flowers about to bloom and the splashes of colour everywhere. Then we arrived back at the house drank tea, played and felt very serene and calm, a feeling that lasted all day long.


    Green Earth

    Zero waste home: a morning of contemplating our waste

    Bea Johnson: Dispelling misconceptions about ZERO WASTE living

    I attended an inspiring morning of talks on a subject of the utmost importance and close to my heart:  zero waste. Headlining the event is perhaps the person many consider to be the mother of the movement,  Bea Johnson. She was there to impart her advice for aspiring zero wasters and talk about how zero waste has changed her and her family’s life for the better.  

    The event was organised by Bristol based family-company Eco Living and compered by  London based zero waste vlogger, Kate Arnell, and held in Bristol’s iconic Arnolfini auditorium. The talks marked Bea’s first visit to the city.

    Prior to Bea’s talk, two other inspiring individuals, Michelle Cassar creative director at City to Sea Bristol  and Lizzie Carr, adventurer and environmentalist  shared their own experiences of plastic and more specifically plastic pollution, and how it has affected them and prompted them to to combat the problem. Both were equally captivating and I am in no doubt we will be hearing more from both in the future.*

    Who is Bea Johnson?

    Bea is a French native now based in California. Her lifestyle has catapulted her to prominence since starting her zero waste journey back in 2008. In that time she has published a book entitled ‘Zero Waste Home’ that  is available in 12 languages. The book contains tips and advice for others who are trying to live waste free.  In addition she has  travelled the world giving talks to curious audiences wondering how she maintains her lifestyle. She also keeps her blog and social media channels updated with daily/weekly posts, has been interviewed by numerous news outlets keen to scrutinise whether she’s telling the truth and how her  family of four produce just one jar of waste annually. Their home has even been under 24 hour CCTV surveillance to prove her doubters wrong.  She  claims the change in her family’s lifestyles has meant they now have experiences rather than stuff, they collect memories not souvenirs.

    I really liked that she opened her talk with what she doesn’t do. She was clearly keen to dispel misconceptions about living zero waste:

    • She doesn’t do no-poo – I guess she gets asked this a lot because a lot of people keen to embark on their own zero waste give up shampoo (I did!)
    • She doesn’t use moss she uses loo roll
    • She doesn’t use stingy nettles to make her lips bigger (confused? Bea was trying to find a zero waste option to replace her lip plumper. She decided to love her lips just as they are, and gave up on both natural and shop bought plumpers)!
    • She’s not a vegan (she’s been the recipient of online abuse from the vegan community). It is common to hear the argument that a vegan diet has the most positive impact on the planet.

    So, what does she do…

    She uses shampoo, but a bar without any packaging. She buys her loo roll in bulk wrapped in paper not plastic and makes her own make-up (her kohl recipe is said to be excellent).  What I really appreciated was the level of attention she gives to everything . For example she requested that the company who make her beauty oil remove the label so she is left with the glass bottle only. The labelling on jars is often an afterthought, so for those who buy produce in glass jars to avoid plastic, there remains limitations to our attempts at being conscious consumers, and we will still produce waste. She really has taken it to the  next level, and by listening to her talk you can feel her passion for making a difference.

    What is zero waste living? Living your life according to the 5-r’s.

    What are the 5 R’s of zero waste living? 

    1. Refuse: what you don’t need. Napkins are a common example as are plastic straws, but the list is endless and junk mail is also a problem and make a stand against unnecessary marketing paraphernalia and gimmicky things that are feeding an unhealthy economy
    2. Reduce: sort through your clutter and donate what you don’t need and use to local charity shops. Keep shopping trips and shop less, bringing less in reduces the opportunity for waste
    3. Reuse: replace your disposables with reusables: look around your home and especially in the kitchen and when out about, stop buying plastic water bottles and use water flasks instead, take tote bags and tupperware, tiffins and boxes when you shop
    4. Recycle: if you have refused, reduced and reused first and recycling is the only viable option then Bea suggests you get to know your cities waste policy and take it to the relevant place
    5. Rot: find out what you can compost and find a composting system that works for you

    There will often be things you won’t agree with, even if you really admire the person saying them. For me the second of the 5 R’s, reduce is one that perplexed me the most. Not because I disagree, as it happens I am currently having my own declutter and this is possibly why it resonates. It is more because I see that this is the problem and I can’t help feeling guilty about being part of this problem.

    When you consider all the stuff we have, surely we can’t all offload it hoping someone else will want it? Sorting through clutter and donating to charity shops is excellent and gives functional things a new home and lease of life. Yet it’s still shifting ‘stuff’ from one place to another. And if we all did this over and over again, then charity shops will be burdened with donations they can’t accommodate.

    And all the time we’re sifting through our clutter, more stuff continues to be  produced. It’s all bonkers. What need to change IS stuff: it needs to be reduced.

    Until about 70-years ago, most households would have primarily been functional with little decor and stuff. We have been catapulted into an insanely materialistic age that hasn’t done us or the planet any favours.

    Overall, Bea’s captivating talk reinforced my (and I am sure my fellow audience members) desire to make a positive impact in our own small but significant way. She reinforced the zero waste lifestyle and its powerful message.

    Sometimes fighting waste feels like a losing battle especially when there’s plastic everywhere. But I have faith and by educating our children as Bea has done, perhaps we can have a lasting impact on our wasteful ways and learn the art of living without stuff.

    Afterall stuff is a very 21st centur and until relatively recently a very Western problem and therefore responsibility lies with us to manage our waste and come up ith solutions to prevent more being produced.

    *I will include blog posts about both in the coming weeks 🙂


    Green Earth

    10 Tips to reduce your plastic pollution when food shopping

    For the first time in what feels like a looooong time I visited a supermarket with my sister to do a fairly big shop. The experience reminded me why I have stopped doing my main shopping in supermarkets: plastic!  Darn, insidious plastic is everywhere, it’s unavoidable and so normal that regular (often time-pressed) shoppers are unlikely to think about it, or if they are frustrated, they’re still trapped and will generally buy produce in plastic and other over-packaged items regardless.


    When I found myself in Sainsbury’s local late one Saturday evening (the local shops generally shut at 6) I realised how difficult it is to shop consciously and package-free. This local Sainsbury’s is so  small it doesn’t have a deli counter.  This meant we couldn’t purchase some of the items we wanted to buy, by weight and use our own containers to avoid single-use plastic. Instead we bought our olives, capers, roasted peppers and artichokes in glass jars (yes- we were having antipasto!). I’m not claiming the taste is better than those packaged in the fresh produce aisle, as the olives we purchased in jars were in brine and I generally think olives are tastier preserved in oil. Yet we decided to vote with our feet, stick to our guns and principles. We also bought unpackaged fruit and veg, a carton of almond milk (which comes in Tetra-Pak. This company claims to be responsible but I intend to read more about this) loose bread  rolls as there’s an in-store bakery at least.


    I realised supermarkets in their current form offer a desperately flawed shopping experience to shoppers with a package-free or zero waste approach to shopping. There isn’t really a viable option to avoid plastic packaged food without making exceptions, even if you really want to. Of course plastic as a material needs to be banned-it’s a no-brainer, but until it is the continued and extravagant use of a material that has unanimously been denounced by every scientist and environmentalist on the planet due to its toxicity and limited life span, should surely be managed better than it currently is. Eventually my hopes are it will be made illegal. I mean if you attract a taxed for carbon emission when driving certain vehicles (and rightly so) surely we should be doing the same to companies determined to use plastic?


    The other things is, I along with so many others, treat my decision to avoid plastic a lifestyle choice akin to being a meat-eater or a vegan. Products exist that meet the needs of these consumers. Supermarkets should give equal regard to their shoppers who have chosen plastic-free lifestyle, I am sure they’d be surprised just how many of their shoppers care about this issue.


    Until the world of economics stops influencing common sense, I have come up with the following tips that can be tried out  when food shopping in both mainstream and independent shops (because as such as far as I am aware there are only a handful or package free shops in the UK, and none of these are in Bristol, yet). So you can try some or all of the following when shopping:

      1. Buy jarred instead of plastic or better still take your own jar and fill up on*:
      • olives
      • pesto
      • antipasti (at the deli counter)
      • drinks
      • bread – lots of supermarkets have a loose bread and pastries section so you can avoid plastic 🙂
      • *I noticed that the express aisle was full of delicious foods that have become staples: hummus for one, olives for another and artichokes and sundried tomatoes which are clearly very popular with shoppers as they’re always available in the express shops not just the larger ones.

      2.Take your own produce bags, tupperware, tiffin boxes and so forth to scoop shops

      1. Order a veggie box and state ‘no plastic’ when placing your order (I did this and so far it has been plastic free, although I do wonder if this means I will never have kale or spinach? I will happily give them a box or produce bag to use instead)
      1. Stop using a bin bag, wash your bin instead
      1. Make your own from your scooped produce
      • homous
      • bread
      • dip
      1. Support local and buy your fruit and veg from local green grocers and take your own bags or use paper ones
      1. Take your own boxes to fishmongers and butchers
      1. order milk from the milkman which will be delivered in glass bottles that are collected washed, and refilled
      1. Take your own bags every time- the less plastic bags that are used, the less demand there will be to make them
      1. LOBBY- every time you identify an unnecessary use of packaging, then write to the company- email, call,  or start a petition – there is power in being a consumer so let’s  harness it and make a difference

      By doing some or all of the above, you will should notice that you produce less plastic during the week and in the process you’re having a major impact on:

      • the environment
      • the economy
      • the supermarkets
      • brands that aren’t participating in change- I have a major bugbear with babybel cheese stored in wax and wrapped in plastic just to include the brand name :(((

      Finally, because buying is voting  your choices can act to lobby brands and supermarkets to change their approach to waste management. You are letting them know the way they are dealing with it is just not acceptable to the modern enlightened green consumer:- which these days is pretty much every educated person out there.
      What are your top-tips? Leave your  top-tips in the comment section below 🙂

    Green Beauty

    The bristle brush (part of the no-poo series)

    Can a brush keep me on my no-poo journey? More than 8-weeks into my no-poo experiment (see no-poo review 1 and 2 for more info) and after experiencing peak greasiness a few weeks back (and admittedly close to throwing in the towel and repealing no-poo) I decided to research more about the process and ‘science’ behind it as I really want it to work with the promise of beautiful low maintenance hair spurring me on.

    One tool I seemed to be reading about a lot on the numerous blogs and websites I turned to was the bristle brush. I gathered that we need to turn away from most or all things once deemed a normal haircare choices and instead adopt a more natural approach. And this includes looking at the type of brush you use. The bristle brush is the brush of choice for no-pooer’s it seems. 

    So what is a bristle brush and why might it help someone who is trying to give up on shamPOO?

    The body of a bristle brush is generally made of wood, and the bristle’s from stiff wild boar hair (does this mean they’re not vegetarian?).

    While I am not sure if the following is evidence based, but as I agree with many of the points, I decided to include the following list taken from a Moroccan website discussing the benefits of using a bristle brush. The benefits for your hair include:

    1. Grows hair faster and prevents hair loss
    2. Conditions hair
    3. Adds shine (I concur, it really does)
    4. Cleans hair (Yup, if this means removing the dust, then I concur again)
    5. Prevents breakage and frizz (Yup, although it does make hair static too but this is short-lived)
    6. It’s a great styling too
    7. Balances your scalps oil (if this is true, then this hair brush it vital when conducting a no-poo experiment)
    8. Softens hair (I’d have to agree to this as well)

    Source: Morrocco Method

    I managed to buy my bristle brush in a local pharmacy here in Bristol and it’s  made of olive wood, in the process I managed to:

    • Support local
    • Invest in a natural and compostable product
    • That was minimally packaged*

    *I have to add that while it was minimally packaged,  the information card was attached to the brush with a black plastic tag that was very difficult to remove 🙁 and in the process I managed to scratch the brush with the scissor.

    A brush that ‘Clean’s’ hair:

    Point number 4 above claims the brush ‘cleans’ your hair. I agree as it managed to dust and extract ‘bits’ that find their way into our hair. And I know this because the first time I used it, the brush was covered in dust even though I had rinsed my hair the night before.

    I used it when there was a little shampoo bar residue remaining. After a few brushes over the course of the day, the residue was gone. This must have been down to the brush as I had not washed or added any product to it- not even my homemade dry shampoo.

    I am now so convinced by this brush and the benefits it seems to bring my no-poo journey, that I am determined to stick with the experiment. I think all my life, or rather, since my teens, I have been treating my hair all wrong. Exposing it to plastic hair brushes and combs and over-thought, complicated man-made, synthetically produced shamPOO’s that have confused my scalp’s natural oils, making it demanding due to increasing its grease levels and drying it out due to overwashing. Not to mention all the other products and heat-exposure (straighteners, hair-dryers, curlers) that I have used.

    A green life seems to be a simpler life too, as I keep discovering. I will still use my shampoo bar for now, follow this with lavender, but increasingly i think about the mantra, don’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t put in your mouth and this no-poo journey has put my drive to natural living under a microscope and gradually, I hope to be as compostable in my human self as my bristle brush! (if you know what I mean!!)

    Green Beauty

    No-Poo review 2!

    It has been nearly 4-weeks since my last update on the no-poo experiment. And I have to confess that it hasn’t been plain sailing- I had a mini-meltdown that lead to a halt:I sort of cheated, albeit with only a tiny amount of shamPOO.

    You see, I travelled to London by train with Bean immediately after work about two Friday’s ago. On our way to West Acton I managed to get something sticky in my hair, then me and my hair got rained on (acid rain is never a good look) this meant that my -by now- already VERY greasy hair looked like clumpy rats tails. It didn’t help I was off to a farewell party the following evening and had planned to wear my hair up, but as I tried to rinse with plain water and a little rose geranium essential oil (the only one I had that had travelled with me to London) and saw this really didn’t help the state of my hair, so the following morning I reached for my friends shamPOO:( (I truly felt deflated at the time).

    I can’t remember the make but she bought it from TK Maxx,  it said it was organic but I read it contained SLS! So I accept it as a fail.

    You can’t pretend not to care when you do…

    I also accept that no matter how hard you try, you can’t pretend not to care about certain things you just do care about- and I care about my hair, or more specifically how it looks at a party (vanity, all is vanity).

    I can handle wearing it up and using the dry rye flour shampoo, this doesn’t bother me. But, when it is so dry combined with grease, sticky, rained on and not even a good rinse with water and rose geranium will do, I had to draw the line (the fact that there was a party definitely weakened my no-poo stance somewhat as well).

    However to (over) compensate for this fail I then proceeded not to wash it for the 2-weeks that followed  and surprisingly I am happy to report that my shamPOOing doesn’t seem to have derailed the no-poo benefits too much because in this period only a small amount of grease appeared, that warranted only a few applications of the rye flour compared to the previous weeks ?.

    When I finally gave it a no-poo wash…

    When I finally washed it, I used my soap bar by Funky Soap that’s all natural and surely no-poo (or have I failed again?). I never use much. This is what I learnt the hard way when it comes to solid shampoo bars: you don’t need much or else you’ll be left with a residue that really wants to stay clinging to your hair.

    So, after 2-weeks of not even rinsing my hair I used:

    • 1 funky soap solid shampoo bar- black walnut
    • Rinsed with cider vinegar, water and loads (about 10 drops) of lavender


    Then, a proper game-changer, I invested in a bristle brush…
    To be continued.