As discussed, I have spent the last year living my life and not blogging. So naughty of me. But I've still been thinking about upcycling, I promise. Here's a feature I wrote for SurfGirl magazine's January issue on new year revolutions, little things you can commit to doing for the benefit of the planet.
Unless you have very good eyesight, chances are you can't read the text in the image above, so being a kind soul I have pasted it here...
New year revolutions: Four resolutions to focus your efforts on protecting the earth, one day at a time
Some new years resolutions are easy (“Eat fewer than five Kit Kats per day”) while some are not (“Learn to play the ukulele to professional standard”). But most resolutions exist around a quest for personal improvement. This year, why not focus some resolve on planet improvement? To help, we’ve fashioned four earth-friendly resolutions that are fun, achievable and pretty well painless.
Upcycling requires a little shift in thinking and a measure of creativity: rather than throwing things out, bypass the landfill and come up with new uses for old stuff. The benefit is that your bit of trash won’t be transported halfway round the world and it won’t be heated back down into its core material – two processes that require tons of energy and therefore make a big impact on the planet.
Every item of garbage from your household might not be a candidate for upcycling, but with an open mind it’s possible to reinvent old rubbish to serve new uses. In the surf world, there’s no greater proponent of this than Cyrus Sutton, creator of Korduroy TV and director of the film Stoked & Broke. Tune into Cyrus’ website and soon you’ll be converting soup tins into hobo stoves, resurrecting shipping pallets as sun loungers and making wetsuit changing bags from redundant tarpaulins.
Crafty girls are at an advantage, because if you’ve got sewing skills you can whip up a bag from old curtains; if you’re more of the cut-and-paste persuasion, lift lovely surf shots from mags and create driftwood frames. For a practical project, hit up your shaper for foam dust, pour into an offcut of tights, tie the ends to seal, and say hello to your new wax remover.
It’s a complete mystery: why are items that are inherently disposable now being made from materials that will never, ever break down? A cotton bud only ever gets used once – at the most – so why on earth is the shaft made of plastic?
There are earth-friendly disposables out there, and it’s essential to swap nasties for biodegradable options. You buy cotton buds, tampons and cotton makeup pads pretty much every month, so train yourself to look for ones that come in cardboard and paper wrapping, contain no plastic components and are made from organic cotton. Exchange your disposable razors for one where only the blade is disposable.
And if you’re guilty of flushing cotton buds, sanitary products, condoms and razors down the loo rather than the bin, then Surfers Against Sewage has a message for you. Think Before You Flush is a new campaign discouraging people from using their toilet as a tip, because this causes huge problems both in the sewage works and later on in the marine environment.
When you feel the urge to shop till you drop or jettison your junk to a skip, remember – bartering can be beautiful. This is the year to initiate cash-free trade among your gang, because one girl’s trash is another’s treasure. That super tiny thruster I accidentally bought on a whim could be just what you need to take your surfing to the next level, and a board you’ve outgrown could be my ticket to ride.
“Swapping is particularly good for surfboards because as you improve you generally want to go shorter and smaller,” says Finola O’Neill, who’s exchanged everything from a coffin bag to an epoxy fish with friends. “It’s a karma thing; everyone gets what they want and you don’t have to bin it all, which is a waste of materials.”
You can take the redistribution of resources a step further too. When I retired a winter wetsuit, a friend put me in touch with his flatmate. She was getting into surfing but wasn’t sure she was ready to buy a box-fresh wettie. She took mine off my hands; then, rather than giving me money for the tatty old thing, we agreed she’d make a donation to a surf charity. Truly – everyone’s a winner.
Foraging is much more fun and cheaper than going five-star. It’s also easier than gardening because you only have to show up for the harvest. Surfers are lucky because we spend more time traversing fields and country lanes than most, providing access to the ripest blackberries and the juiciest apples. With a freezer, this equals good eating all year long. The sea offers a bounty too of course, for those willing to take a closer look.
If you’re really keen on reducing food miles, resisting intensive farming and disrupting supermarket tyranny, outfits like Safari Britain and the Wild Food School offer courses in the foraging arts. Meanwhile Food for Free, the paperback Collins Gem by Richard Mabey, is a tiny compendium that fits in a backpack and shows all you need to know to rustle up tasty winkles, samphire, laver and goosegrass that you’d otherwise overlook.