When I travelled to Costa Rica back in January, I was impressed by the dedication the government had to being environmentally friendly. Costa Rica is leading in terms of eco tourism and the whole country this year was powered by renewable energy. Incredible, especially, since Costa Rica’s GDP is far lower than many countries. Having visited Tourtugero, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges and the Cloud Forest in Monteverde and seeing all of the beautiful wildlife I made a pact that myself that I would make a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly when I got back to the UK. I also have a Geography degree and my dissertation was focused on if being environmentally friendly was important to university students. Therefore I should practice what I preach!

Back in the rainy West Midlands the reality is different but I still had a mission of making a difference. You may want to sit with a cuppa for this one! Here are my attempts at making a difference.

Starting at home with the everyday task of washing your hands

BioD Hand Wash

I have been keen on using more environmentally friendly cleaning products as I do think about the amount of chemicals that run through the drains and the damage this causes. My first foray in this is hand wash from Bio-D. My biggest peeve with being sustainable is that it can be costly. Considering hand wash at Aldi is less than a pound it can be hard to justify spending lots of money on hand wash. I had a google around and found Bio-D. I like Bio-D’s mission statement which is ‘We believe it is possible to have effective, natural, safe cleaning products that don’t cost the earth. You have nothing to lose, our world has everything to gain. There products seemed to be good value so I gave their hand wash a go.

I purchased two bottles of the unscented version off the Natural Collection site, which is slowly becoming a site I do a lot of shopping at. Bio-D claim that there hand washes do not contain Phosphates, E.D.T.A, Enzymes Optical Brighteners, Chlorine Bleaches, Petroleum-derived Additives, Chemical Plasticisers, Formaldehyde, Glycerin or Glycerine, Lanolin, Sodium Tallowate, Synthetic Dyes, Synthetic Perfumes and Titanium Dioxide. Essentially nasty chemicals. The packaging is 100% recyclable as well – bonus!

The hand wash did the job and I felt was very good value as both have lasted absolutely ages.

Kitchen Cleaning spray

Tesco EcoActive Spray

Next on my hit list was cutting the amount of chemicals I use to clean my kitchen. I got the Tesco Eco Active Spray  as it was in the sale. The pink grapefruit smells amazing, the ingredients are plant-based and non-toxic. The bottle is made with up 45% reusable plastic and is 100% recyclable packaging and has the EU eco label. Its great that I can get this from Tesco, therefore not having to purchase from a different site and contributing more to my carbon footprint.

Soap nuts – an alternative to washing powder?

Soapnuts

Normal – everyday washing powder contains lots of nasty chemicals and thinking about it, do you really want that on your skin? When I found Soap Nuts by ecozone from the Natural Collection site I was interested but skeptical. There are meant to be enough nuts for 330 washes making that about 3p per wash and four nuts in a cotton bag lasts four washes – bargain! There are naturally and sustainably sourced – another bonus in my book. My scepticism The cotton bag is reusable however the nuts are contained within a plastic bag on the inside.

My scepticism came from at first seeing the nuts and I wasn’t sure how clean they will keep my clothes but I have had soap nuts for about six months now and they are good. I find that they do clean the clothes well. They don’t leave a smell if you don’t use fabric conditioner. Its not a bad smell, like if your clothes haven’t been cleaned but I do like my clothes to smell nice.

Hair care

Again, I was concerned about the amount of chemicals that I put in my hair and consequently drain down the pipes. I chose Faith in Nature shampoo’s in Rose and Neroli and Grapefruit and Orange. Faith in Nature claim to be free from Parabens and SLS, Vegan and Cruelty-Free and 99% Natural Origin. If you like or expecting a soapy lather – don’t expect it from this shampoo, but I think it is because the chemicals make it into a lather and we are conditioned to expect this!

I did find the shampoo made my hair dry, to be fair it did coincide with me going to the pool – ALOT more. But I found once I switched back to my usual shampoo the dryness ceased – even with my regular pool visits. So I don’t think I will use Faith in Nature again.

Periods!

I remember going on a school trip to Glasgow and we were in a museum (cannot remember for the life of me which one it was! I was reading something that said they had dredge part of a river and found a strata of condoms and sanitary pads, a strata! Sanitary pads are made of a bunch of plastic which away from the environment can irritate the skin. Not good, I switched to Natracare and found them to be a lot better than the standard pads and tampons you can get in the shops. I have used both and found them to be really effective. They decompose so won’t damage the environment. They are reasonably priced and you can use them once which satisfy those that may not want to use mooncups or reusable tampons and sanitary pads. I just make sure I put in a order regularly enough as I have had to buy shop ones when I have ran out.

Shopping

Bookshelf full of books

I do buy second hand clothes however struggle so much in charity shops. Being a common size I find it hard to find nice clothes second hand. I am not committed to the cause to the extent that I am willing to compromise on wearing clothes I want to wear. I got very interested in ethical and sustainable clothes. Having watched documentaries on Netflix such as The True Cost I wanted to see if I could make a difference.

BUT I found the clothes in charity shops again to not to be to my taste and I wasn’t keen on the style of a lot of ethically produced clothes. I feel that the clothes I do buy even though they are from the high street I use until they are fallen apart, I repair or pass them on either online selling or to a charity shop. I purchase off ebay clothes that are factory seconds, second hand or ex-season which is better than them being thrown away or burnt to protect the brand like Burberry did but obviously I appreciate purchasing online adds to the carbon footprint.

I have always given to charity shops or sold online as well. I don’t purchase according to ‘the latest in fashion’ well not often anyway. So I feel although I am not buying ‘ethically’ I am not being wasteful either.

Away from clothes I love reading books and pretty much always got my books from either the library, charity shops or swapping with mates. I have set up a sort of book club with my friend so we swap books quite often and I purchase a lot of board games second hand.

Eating and drinking

I tried to go veggie, it didn’t work!

Let me explain, again influenced by my sister who is a full blown vegan and watching numerous documentaries on Twitter I changed my milk to a nut version, cheese to a vegan version and quorn meat. Other than the quorn meat I haven’t stuck by the others.

Reducing plastic

I have always been good with plastic bags, we have tonnes of reusable bags we use for our weekly shopping, I have loads of bottles I use to refill with water and I don’t use straws that often. I make my own lunch most days for work and reuse plastic tupperware boxes (I have some stretching back years) and even gave the ones I was not using away. I need to cut down on using plastic freezer/food bags. I tend to use these over my lunch boxes if something is leaking (such as pineapple juice). I am not sure on what the best solution for this is yet. I have looked at beeswax paper but I don’t think it is quite right. I shall have to see.

So you can see I have a long way to go!

Are you making steps to be environmentally friendly? Let me know your steps below.

Using social media scheduling tools image

Taking your blog to the next level means that you need to use a social media scheduling platform. A social media scheduling platform is a programme that you use to write your posts in advance for them to publish on the social media networks of your choosing. It is beneficial because:

  • You can write posts and schedule posts for them to come out at the time of your choosing
  • You can continue to advertise your blog, even when you are doing something else
  • You can schedule posts so it hits a different time zone, perfect for building a foreign audience
  • You will be keeping a consistent presence on social media, important if you want to take your blog to the next level.

So with that in mind, what social media scheduling platforms are there for you to use and what are the pros and cons of each?

Hootsuite

  • You can have all the main social media accounts
  • You can set an auto schedule where Hootsuite will pick a time where it thinks most people look at your twitter timeline and then schedule your post at that time
  • It does have a mobile app, but in experience I prefer using the desktop version
  • You can have multiple streams showing your home feed, tweets, even hashtags
  • You can use their link shorter to shorten hyperlinks

Cons

  • You can only schedule 30 posts on the free version

Tweetdeck

Pros

  • Completely free to use
  • You can schedule as many tweets as you want

Cons

  • Only available to schedule tweets so not helpful if you want to schedule things on more than one platform

Buffer

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Again you can schedule different networks
  • It pulls images so you can pick which image you want to schedule

Cons

  • You can only schedule 10 posts per platform before having to pay

Tailwind

Pros

  • You can easily pick which pins you want to repin
  • Approved by Pinterest, so you haven’t got the danger of your account being suspended
  • Lots of stats available for you to look at

Cons

  • It may just be me, but I found it quite difficult to use – there is almost too much that I didn’t know where to start.

There are the four main ones. In my previous marketing roles I have used the paid version of Hootsuite which did the job fine. I did have a dabble in Buffer when the Hootsuite contract was coming up for renewal but didn’t see the reason to swap. For any blog posts I tend to use a mixture of Hootsuite and tweetdeck.

What do you use?

Book that I hated

I love reading books and spend a small fortune in Amazon and charity shops purchasing books. However some books I have purchased often end up being real disappointments. Since I take my unwanted books to the charity shop, I delved back in my amazon purchases to see which books ended up being disappointments.

Contest – Matthew Reilly

Synopsis: The New York State Library becomes an arena for Dr Stephen Swain and daughter Holly where Dr Stephen Swain is competing for his life. 

I loved Ice Station and Hell Island so when I was looking for a book to take with me on holiday Contest seemed like the perfect answer. Matthew Reilly’s books are know for being over exaggerating. Ice Station and Hell Island are two but they were kind of believable, Contest was just so ridiculous from the start with. As soon as I was reading about alien creatures that speak to humans, I just couldn’t read the rest of the book. If you are into fantasy it may be one for you.

The Fair Fight – Anna Freeman

Synopsis (from Amazon): Born into a brothel, Ruth’s future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr. Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.

The Fair Fight will take you from a filthy brothel to the finest houses in the town, from the world of street-fighters to the world of champions. Alive with the smells and the sounds of the streets, it is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention and fighting your way to the top.

A historical fictional novel about female boxers really appealed to me as I read a five star review about it in an magazine. But the book was just such a slow burner that I got fed up and gave up half way through. I found it confusing and didn’t want to spend the time finding out what was going on.

Generation X: Tales for an accelerated culture – Douglas Coupland

Synopsis (from Amazon): Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fallout of yuppies, recession, crack and Ronald Reagan, they represent the new generation- Generation X. 
Fiercely suspicious of being lumped together as an advertiser’s target market, they have quit dreary careers and cut themselves adrift in the California desert. Unsure of their futures, they immerse themselves in a regime of heavy drinking and working in no future McJobs in the service industry.
Underemployed, overeducated and intensely private and unpredictable, they have nowhere to direct their anger, no one to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie. So they tell stories: disturbingly funny tales that reveal their barricaded inner world. A world populated with dead TV shows, ‘Elvis moments’ and semi-disposible Swedish furniture.

For those of you reading that know me personally, this does sound like a book that would be right up my street, especially its relevance with today’s society. I found it a choir to get through, quite self indulgent and boring.

Kill All Enemies – Melvin Burgess

Synopsis (from Amazon): 

Everyone says fourteen-year-old BILLIE is nothing but trouble. A fighter. A danger to her family and friends.
But her care worker sees someone different.

Her classmate ROB is big, strong; he can take care of himself and his brother.
But his violent stepdad sees someone to humiliate.

And CHRIS is struggling at school; he just doesn’t want to be there.
But his dad sees a useless no-hoper.

Billie, Rob and Chris each have a story to tell. But there are two sides to every story, and the question is . . . who do you believe?

I had read Junk and absolutely loved it, so when I googled searched more of Melvin Burgess’ books this one appealed to me. But when I had purchased it, I was disappointed, I found the book never got quite going for me.

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances and Figuring Out who the hell I am – Laura Williams

Synopsis (from Amazon): 

When the man Laura Jane Williams thought she’d wed dumped her and married her friend, she was devastated. Empty. Drinking too much, sleeping around, and moving from place-to-place in a refusal to put down roots, she tried to fill the void – the gaping hole – that heartbreak had left behind. She wanted control. To grab life by the balls. To live boldly. But, she rapidly learned it wasn’t that simple.

Resolving that life couldn’t go on as it was – that the backlog of men and sadness that haunted her would not define her – Laura declared a year-long vow of celibacy, ultimately finding herself in a Riviera convent as she slowly put pieces of herself back together.

An honest exploration of a young woman’s soul and a road trip through Italy, America, Paris and… Derby, BECOMING is a book that makes you laugh and makes you cry, but most of all? It makes you realise that even when the going gets tough, no one is really f*cking up like they think they are.

This book, again, I had brought due to a review I read in Cosmo I think. I wanted to like this book, I really did, but found it just too self indulgent. I have to expect that, it is a memoir and what happened to her was truly awful but it was too much for me. A lot of people go through a lot worse and don’t travel around, they have to get on with it. It just wanted her to get over it!

That’s it for now! What books have you read which you were disappointed with?

Image of gym joggers

As summer draws to a close, the weather gets colder therefore it can be harder to have the motivation to exercise. I am more of a cold weather runner myself. I hate getting too hot and having the sun beating down on me also frustrates me. Running in the dark also does grind me down after a while, as I cannot run all of the routes I want to run. That all being said, here are some tips I have found to keep me motivated whilst running in the winter.

Make sure you wear the appropriate gear

Running in winter is going to be a lot easier if you are appropriately dressed in the first place, to help you stop thinking that you are constantly cold. This is the time to dig out the running leggings (I like Gymshark and Adidas), thermal top, gloves, hat and buff.

Keep yourself hydrated

Its easy to think that you don’t need a drink as your body doesn’t feel it needs one as it hasn’t sweated as much… Think again. Make sure you drink as normal otherwise you end up with a headache.

Run with a group or friend

If you are worried about your safety with less people being out and about now that it is getting darker. Join a running group or grab your partner. This helps keep the motivation going when you are thinking about changing your mind on going on that run.

Change the time of your run

If you run usually at the end of the working day (like I do) then if possible run at lunch time where the weather is lighter and warmer.

Swap the outdoors for the gym

If you are worried about safety, hate just being cold or getting nervous about running when the frost hits then swap running for the paths for running on the treadmill. I do have a pass to the Nuffield Gym which I use fairly often. However I tend to use the pass for weights rather than running but I am sure I will become more acquainted with the treadmill once winter roles round.

What are your winter running tips?

Image of the book Happier Thinking Lana Grace Riva

I recently was sent Happier Thinking* to review. In the past I have reviewed self help books such as How to make a decision and The Defining Decade and I do love a good self help book so was looking forward to reading this book. Happier Thinking is a short book (50 pages!) providing techniques and tips to help turn negatives into positives.

Happier Thinking is not a scientific book, and Lana does not claim to be a scientist. The book is written from her experience attending mindfulness classes, therapy and reading. The techniques she shares are techniques Lana has found helped her. The chapters are short and succinct, I like this, as other self help books can get so bogged down in the science you have to read half a chapter before a point is made. The book is handbag sized as well which is handy if you want a pick me up in the middle of the day or when you are out and about.

All the chapters are based on rewiring negative thoughts that may occur from everyday things such as not writing off the day if you have had a terrible time getting to work to acting on what you can change and not worrying about the things you can’t.

The don’t compare compare your life to imagined others really resonated with me. Lana talks about how you could be sitting on a train, looking at someone else and thinking they are having a great life but you don’t know them and this type of thinking is unhelpful. I am incredibly bad at always comparing myself to others to the extent that I make myself miserable, so to read what I do on paper did put it into perspective for me that I need to work to change my thinking regarding this.

The disadvantage of the book is that I found a lot of the examples to be too simplistic that they seemed unrealistic that the average person would stress over them. One example, Lana mentions, in the book is about you could get stressed over discontinued washing detergent. Another being what happens if the wrong food order arrives in a restaurant, therefore you now think the whole evening is ruined. You could argue that those examples are more relatable to everyone but it doesn’t work for me.

Overall the book didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know but it is useful as a starter book into self help or as a quick reminder.

*This book was sent for me to review but views, as always, are my own.

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