This is a guest post by Caroline Harris, author of 'Ms Harris’s Book of Green Household Management: The Essential Thrift Bible'. I asked Caroline to share her story about how she came to write the book, and for some of her top tips.
It’s all down to my son, really. I decided to try and be greener as I contemplated what state the planet might be in when his generation inherit it, and what kind of possibly harmful cocktail might be brewing in his infant body from the 100,000 chemicals that make their way into our households. We started to buy more organic and fairtrade, we attempted the reusable nappy route, we changed to more eco-friendly cleaning brands.
But it wasn’t until one summer holiday in Cornwall that I came upon the idea for a book of green household management. We were staying at a cosily lovely holiday cottage near a family-friendly cove of beach, but beneath the sink, instead of my usual eco cleaners, was a gaggle of brightly coloured big-manufacturer potions. It started me thinking that I wished I knew how to really go back to practical, thrifty basics, and clean with the likes of baking soda and vinegar.
I began researching. The British Library, for household manuals from centuries gone by; the internet, for up-to-date advice; friends, parents, experts at green organisations. I turned our home into something of a laboratory, as I monitored our energy use, measured our greywater, composted, sowed (and sewed), tested recipes and tried out the likes of eco washing balls and soap nuts.
As I say in the book, I’m far from perfect in my greenness, and our Victorian mid-terrace is still a work in progress. But the book has taken me on a journey that I’m still exploring. From rediscovering crafts such as sewing, knitting, and making my own lip balm, to helping organise a Zero Energy Day with candle-lit story time and camp-fire cooking at my son’s school. From taking my part in local food days and workshops with our Transition Larkhall group (www.transitionlarkhall.org.uk) to the pride I feel that we are self-sufficient in jams and chutneys.
TIPS FROM MS HARRIS
Green household management is smart household management. It’s about making your home welcoming, people-friendly and environmentally friendly, saving carbon emissions and cash – and enjoying challenging ingrained old habits.
1. Last-minute Christmas presents
If you’re stuck for presents you could try some homemade ideas, such as clementine marmalade (the recipe is in the book, and pictures going up on my blog at www.ms-harris.com). Fabric circles, or brown paper tied with preloved ribbon (in other words, the stuff you saved from last year) will liven up the lids. Or how about kilner jars filled with biscuits or simple sweets, such as fruit-and-nut-strewn chocolate bark, which I’ve just made with my son for his teachers.
2. Visit your local charity shop
They’re great for raw materials, such as fabrics for sewing and teacups to hold soya candles, as well as fashion finds. I’ve discovered Susie Cooper ceramics, a Fenn Wright Manson jumper, and a number of good TopShop items. You can park the children in the toy section while you browse.
3. Easy bathroom cleaning
You might be surprised, given that I’ve written a household management book, but I like to do the minimum cleaning I can get away with. You don’t need headache-inducing bleaches for bathrooms. Spritz toilet bowls regularly with a distilled white vinegar spray, and tackle stubborn limescale with a couple of tablespoons of citric acid left overnight. A few drops of lavender oil on a damp sponge makes a fragrant wipe for the seat.
4. Put lids on pans
It’s amazing how much you can turn down the heat – though watch they don’t boil over. Try to double-use an oven, so you cook more than one thing at a time, and prepare double quantities of meals: heating up takes less energy than cooking from scratch, and will save your time too.
5. Plant a fruit tree
Apple trees are a lovely addition to the garden, and winter is the time to plant these and other fruit trees and bushes. You can buy a few raspberry canes or a blackcurrant for about the priced of a punnet of soft fruits, and they take very little looking after. You can even grow them in pots on a patio
Mummy Zen: This is a really enjoyable book and provides a wealth of great tips covering everything from general cleaning to eating, shopping, gardening, clothing, as well as some lovely creative (and green) ideas for special occasions. Click on the book image to get your copy or order one for a friend (it would make an excellent gift). Today is Amazon's last day to order for Christmas with their free super-saver delivery.