Words from Sustainable Birds x Angharad Armson
Weirdest thing you’ve recycled.
We repurposed our washing machine drum and turned it into a garden burner after the machine broke. It is still going strong and helps dispose of secure information and garden waste that is non-compostable.
First memory of being sustainable/waste reducing etc.
In one way or another I have been brought up repurposing items without really knowing why. My childhood is full of memories of my grandparents making things, knitting us clothes and my parents keeping everything, reusing stuff and recycling things, especially in the garden and kitchen. Their kitchen collection of jars and tins is not a picture perfect arrangement of matching jars but rather it is a collection of hotchpotch jars that have been washed and reused so that the printed branding on the lid may not match the product inside. The same goes in the Veg garden, old cot bed sides are used for growing beans up, old wardrobes are used for raised beds, plastic water cooler bottles used as cloches and toilet roll tubes used as seedling pots.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Choosing products that are well made with a long useable life; I love an item with a story. I love cooking with my grandparent’s pans, gardening with a hand-me-down spade and fork. I also look for items that, when they meet a well-worn end, can be disposed of with a low impact end of life.
What has been the hardest thing to let go of in your sustainable journey?
I’m not sure I really have given up much but rather we’ve consciously been making alternative substitution choices. We’ve made choices to replace things with better alternatives that we get greater pleasure out of. Instead of clingfilm, we have beautiful wax wraps, instead of plastic wrapped bread we have fresh baked bread, instead of strawberries with air miles we walk to the garden and pick our own.
Who do you admire in the sustainable living community?
I think I may have come to the sustainable movement a bit late to be honest, however, my husband has been looking at this lifestyle for years. He has taught me the concepts and together we have pushed to make it a reality. For him, the true hero is John Seymour who lived the self-sufficient lifestyle long before the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall came along, but I think we admire them both equally, or rather, the concepts of the River Cottage ideal of local, high welfare products. All that said, perhaps the people I most admire are those who simply have a go with a strong make do and mend attitude.
How do you create less waste?
If it’s not broken don’t fix it. This can go for the pots and pans in the kitchen, the old garden tools, the mismatched bowls and plates, they are all perfectly usable and don’t need to be replaced. But I also think this can go for the old fashioned Milkman who delivers your milk, collects the empties, washes them and refills them to use again, it’s such a simple low waste solution that was never broken and can still be used taking millions of plastic bottles out of the system. Glass bottles are hard to beat.
The other great tip is to create good friends. I’ve been developing a great network of friends who have no issue passing clothes, shoes, school uniforms between children and this has developed into seed and plant swaps and of course a good jam, chutney and veg and fruit swaps throughout the year, again, it simple but creates so little waste when we work together at the local scale.
Another tip is to be curious about the next thing you could do to reduce your waste even more. There are loads of ideas on Instagram and YouTube, and Facebook groups that all make things at source. Watching their passion for their produce helps you to understand the process of things, understand the effort in making things and often means that you too can make your own at home, or at least, appreciate the effort that has gone into making an item - making you less likely to throw it away when it is not quite perfectly new.
Finally, be resourceful and use anything. Instagram and Pinterest paint this pretty picture that everything has to be matching and perfectly new, but I say use what you can to reduce waste, save money and recycle or repurpose. We use an old cool box as a mash tun for homebrew, old beer bottles for home made cordials, Kombucha and ginger beer, and every jar we buy we try to use again. We use everything till it’s worn out or needs replacing. Don’t go rushing out to replace and start again; instead, use what you have until it needs replacing, then choose something that will be better.
Who should we be following?
@b4biodiversity – Andreas’ aim is to raise awareness of urban biodiversity through education, practical and creative projects. Check out her bee balms for key works campaign using beeswax from all her Merseyside hives.
@draycottagesmallholding - Kate is my Instagram double. We have developed a friendship on the app and share our makes, finds and knowledge. If we lived closer we’d be dangerous. She’s even grown her own luffa this year!
@peadar_kelly – Peadar starting gardening during the first lockdown in March 2020. He’s learning as he goes and is using anything he can find to grown things in, he’s gardening to help with his wellbeing and providing extra bits to the family’s food budget.
@Katgoldin – Farm-made goods and hands on know-how for living a life in the making. Her account documents that it’s not all easy living the dream, but with determination and a strong will a dream can become a reality.
@handmadebyfamily - Kids clothes handmade by Sarah’s family. Celebrating traditional skills passed through generations
It may be along time from now, but I’d love more beehives to provide my local town honey and the ultimate would be complete vegetable food sustainability by growing our own vegetable supply all year round.