eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

I wish I’d know this before about recycling…

Back before lockdown, when I was still working in an office on a regular basis, I was really pleased to discover one day that a crisp packet recycling collection box had appeared in the office kitchen (that’s chip packet to those who speak American English!). I started happily collecting packets from home and bringing them in to recycle, happy that it was one less thing going to landfill. A mere few weeks or so later, the pandemic hit and with that my crisp packet recycling dream was over.

Every time I throw something in the general waste, I experience a niggling guilt that I shouldn’t be doing it, despite recycling everything my local authority will take (sadly they don’t een collect food waste in my area, but that’s a conversation for another day!). I’m doing what I can to minimise waste by refilling containers at my local zero waste store, choosing lower-packaging options where possibe ans buying almost only loose produce, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. My curiosity was therefore peaked when I got my hands on a hand soap refill package that read in bright green ‘NEW: recycle me with Terracycle’.

Terracycle, that name rang a bell: it was the company we’d been sending our crisp packets to from the office all those months ago! But how did this service work and how could I make use of it now the office collection was no longer an option? I headed to the Terracycle website to look for answers and was blown away by what I found…

Terracycle runs a huge number of programmes to recycle all sorts of items that won’t be recycled by local councils or other mainstream waste management facilities. Crisp packets and soap packaging aside, there are also programme for cheese wrappers, snack & confectionary packaging, toothbrushes & dental care packaging, games & toys, disinfectant wipes and Marigold gloves… the list goes on! Businesses can also purchase Zero Waste Boxes to recycle packing from items such as arts supplies, baby gear, beauty products, casste & VHS tapes, used gum (!)… again, the list goes on, and importantly in the current era, include disposable PPE items.

The public recycling schemes are free to use, and work on a clever community-based model. Individuals set up drop-off locations by finding a public place to place the collection box, getting permission to do so and signing up with Terracycle do getthings going. Terracycle provide all the gear and the individual ships the waste to Terracycle to do their thing once a suitable quantity has been collected. One everyone has a collection point within a 5-mile radius the scheme is full; otherwise you can set up your own scheme and get collecting. What’s more, partners who have set up a collection earn rewards for waste they return, which can be redeemed as donations to a charity of their choice. Genius!

I’m excited to find that there are collection points nearby for some of my more frequently used items, such as crisp packets, dental care and laundry packaging. Even more so that there could be an opportunity for me to set up a new collection point for other items that aren’t yet accounted for in my local area! I’m going to get the lowdown on what it entails to set up a scheme, but it feels like it could bethe perfect way to do a little bit of good in my community without taking on too much burden. Win-win!

Oh, and Terracycle is operating in over 20 countries worldwide, so it’s not only people in the UK who can benefit! Check out their website to find out more about the programmes, locate your nearby collection points, purchase Zero Waste boxes or set up a scheme. Happy Terracycling!

Travel & Transport

Deepest disappointment and glimmers of hope…

I wrote a while back about how I hoped people’s travel behaviours – both locally and on a global scale – would change in the post-pandemic world. This is the first in a short series of posts to reflect on those hopes and on my own travel actions and aspirations.

Many cyclists, walkers and urban residents alike will relate to the sense of relief and satisfaction that came with the quiet roads of the lockdown period. What a joy to be able to enjoy travelling by foot or bike without fear of being squashed at any moment, and to be able to move freely by car on those occasions when you really needed to. Oh, how I thought people would realise how much better life was for spending so much less of it in a car, realise the rewards of active travel, recognise that so many of their usual trips were unnecessary, and that life as it returned back towards ‘normal’ would lose a little of its car-centricity. This felt like such a tangible, almost inevitable outcome during those early weeks, and yet, as far as I can see now, couldn’t have been further than the truth of the situation that transpired.

What happened, in fact, was that as soon as people were allowed out and about again, the volume of traffic on the roads very quickly returned almost to pre-lockdown levels, compounded no doubt in my area by the combination of scorching summer weather, the proximity of one of Europe’s best beaches and the proportion of people still furloughed or off school. What gets to me though isn’t the number of vehicles on the road per se – disappointing as that is in itself – but the behaviour of those in charge of them: there has been a palpable upturn in aggressive driving, the proportion of inconsiderate and frankly dangerous drivers through the roof compared to pre-lockdown times (and it wasn’t great in these parts before).

Why is this? Understandably some groups of people are perhaps more stressed than usual, and hot weather is known to bring about higher levels of anger and antisocial behaviour in general, not just on the roads (case in point: the major incident that was declared in Bournemouth & Poole during the heatwave  at the end of June). But what of the supposed increased sense of community spirit and greater good brought on by the pandemic? I’m struggling to see evidence of this anymore and am instead faced with ever-growing polarisation and individualisation; every person out for themselves, getting from A to B as fast as possible no matter the consequences. An avid cyclist, I’m bordering on frightened to go out in my local area because of how things are on the roads, and historically I’ve been one to suck it up and, keep my wits about me and deal with the dick-moves when they come; all part of being a ‘roady’; but it feels like it’s gone beyond that point now and that the level of risk is tangibly high enough to avoid certain areas at all costs.

This isn’t, however, meant as a sob story about my own life. Five people a day – cyclists and walkers – are killed on the roads my motor vehicles in the UK every day, a sad fact that is under-reported and not at all adequately dealt with. What’s more, this figure will inevitably increase if people’s driving doesn’t become more considerate.

And that’s not to mention the environmental impact brought on by the sheer volume of traffic on the roads: it has been reported that during lockdown – which obviously involved a huge reduction in all forms of transport, notably flying, as well as car driving – globally there was just a 5% decrease in carbon emissions (though this could be as high as 8%). Bearing in mind that the level of reduction required per year to limit global warming to acceptable levels is 7.6% per year this decade, you can see there is a long way to go. If a global lockdown barely generates such a reduction in emissions, as life returns to what people like to call ‘normal’, some drastic changes are needed in the way we live those normal lives, with the way (and amount) we travel being a key part of the puzzle.

In an encouraging development occurring as a direct result of the pandemic, local authorities in the UK have been able to draw on funding to make walking & cycling more practical and appealing. With a progressive council leadership currently in place in my own local area, this has led to rapid and meaningful action to stand up new bike lanes and ‘modal filters’ which make active travel more attractive and, crucially, will encourage people to think twice before making short journeys by car (because certain residential streets are no longer usable as through-routes by motor vehicle).

Whilst having a mixed range of impacts – making angry drivers angrier being a possible by-product, for instance – such measures are fairly quick and simple to implement yet could transform a local area once they’ve had time to bed in. our own local council is running consultations on new schemes which may lead to their becoming permanent as positive feedback comes in. at the same time, those people who would prefer to drive everywhere (but are physically able to do otherwise) may slowly come to terms with the ‘new normal’ and discover the benefits of active travel for themselves.

So there we have it: for me, both deepest disappointment and glimmers of hope in terms of the influence of COVID-19 on people’s travel choices. Of course, my views are shaped by my own frame of reference, both in terms of existing beliefs & values and the unique experience of my own local area. How do you relate to what I’ve written here, if at all? What were your own hopes ad aspirations for the impact of COVID-19 on the world, and have these been realised? I’d love to hear about it…

Uncategorized

Recipe: Tasty 5-Ingredient Crunchy Nut Bites

Here’s the promised recipe for my Crunchy Nut Bites. Super simple to make with just 5 ingredients, and as tasty as honey nut cornflakes themselves, it’s a corker of a sweet snack: give it a try!

This play on the popular cereal tastes like the real deal but cleverly combines natural ingredients to create a healthier version, finished off with just a little sprinkling of honey nut cornflakes for added crunch and an indulgent touch. Dates give that classic caramel-like taste, but you could also use apricots which work well but alter the taste to a fruitier version.

The main equipment you need for this recipe is a good blender or food processor. I recommend Magimix which is just great for making all sorts of things. I use their 3200 model.

Ingredients:

  • 20g bran flakes
  • 100g dates
  • 2-3 big heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • (Optional: drizzle of maple syrup)
  • Handful honey nut cornflakes

How to make:

Soak the dates for 10-20 minutes to soften slightly, which makes it easier to bring the mixture together later.

Put the bran flakes in a food processor and blend until they’re ground up really small. Drain the dates well, add them to the processor and blend until these are finely chopped. Pour in two heaped tablespoons of peanut butter and whizz up to bring it all together.

Check the consistency to see if the mixture sticks together: it will be quite crumbly but should hold its shape when pressed. Add more peanut butter and/or a drizzle of maple syrup if desired, along with your cashews. Blend until the cashews are chopped up and the mixture is the right consistency.

Take a handful of honey nut cornflakes and crush with your hands onto a plate. Grab little bits of the mixture and form into rounds (the size is up to you; I like really small ones that you can just pop into you mouth). Press two sides of each piece into the crushed flakes so you end up with little medallions (you could go for balls but I find pressing rather than rolling gets more coating to stick).

And there you have it: your tasty Crunchy Nut Bites are ready! They’ll keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for about a week. Enjoy!

There’s more where this came from, so if you like what you see feel free to follow the blog to be the first to know when knew recipes are posted!

Note: if any purchases are made via the Amazon links on this page, I am able to earn commission as an Amazon Associate, which would help cover the costs of running this website.

Gardening, Recipes

Container Gardening: steps to self-sufficiency!

I posted a while back about my very modest progress in the world of growing my own veg this year, and have achieved so much more since then I barely know where to start!

My biggest challenge was being unsure whether I had the space to plant very much: whilst we have access to a yard, it’s all concrete so we’re limited to planting in pots & containers, and there’s only so much you can grow in small spaces. Fortuitously, our landlord had some old palletes lying around, and used these to build two new planters (one for flowers to please the landlord’s aesthetical preferences; one for veg!). Not only did it feel great to minimise waste by reusing the old wood, but it massively increased the space we had availabe at home for growing and opened up opportunities to grow a bigger variety of goodies.

I’ve got a couple of rows of beetroot coming on strong, and a few carrots after a precarious start. I thought all the seeds had totally failed but it turns out it takes a few weeks for the seedlings to show, so with patience came reward in the end! You’ll see they’re interspersed with another type of plant; those are just flowers to help hide the carrots from the dreaded ‘carrot-fly’ pest. I’m experimenting with a few different varieties of carrot: the ones you see here will be purple, and just today I’ve planted a fly-resistant variety to fill the gaps and Amsterdam variety which grow well in small spaces in their own little pot. Watch this space for more on how they all do!

I also love the makeshift greenhouse, which takes up limited space and offer a chance to grow things that love heat even in the most basic of gardens. We’ve got some lettuce, cucumber and pepper plants in there at the moment. I’m particularly excited to see how the peppers do and thankful that I was donated the plants by a friend!

In other news, our tomatoes are coming on amazingly well. They’re really strong and lots of flowers have appeared already. Again the space available is confined by keeping our landlord happy with how things look, so it’s nice that the plants can sit in a nice neat row along the fance. They’re joined by my 2 surviving strawberry plants and a blackberry bush, as well as my beloved herb wheel. I love using fresh herbs from outside my door in cooking! My favorite is this green hummus recipe, which is bursting with lovely summery flavours.

I also have some other great recipes up my sleeve for home-grown veg, which I can’t wait to show you once the fruits of my labour start to materialise. As a teaser, here’s a picture of my bangin’ beetroot burgers (made with shop-bought on this occasion!), which I’m super excited to share the recipe for when I’ve got my own beetroot from the ground. You’ll have to take my word for it for now, but honestly, it’s SO GOOD, you don’t want to miss it! Follow the blog to keep up to date and be the first to see new recipes when they land.

Are you growing veg yourself or hoping to start? I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments to share your story 🙂

eco friendly products, Recipes

Making my own snacks to save on waste!

I love making my own tasty, clean and eco-friendly sweet snacks, which is both healthier for me and reduces the amount of packaging I have to buy and dispose of! I’ve enjoyed experimenting with some fun energy ball flavours these last couple of weeks… Let me know if you’d like to see recipes and be sure to follow me for updates when they drop!

Crunchy Nut bites
Chewy date, nut & oat bars
Dark chocolate, apricot & pistachio balls
eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

Introducing my favourite eco-friendly household items

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, I find household items are one of the most challenging things. So many of the basic things we use in daily life – like toiletries and cleaning products – generate a lot of plastic waste and other environmental issues. From growing natural sponges to recyclable toothpaste tubes, slowly I’m discovering an array of products that are helping me overcome those problems. I’d like to share a few here and hope you’ll share some back!

Eco-friendly toothpaste

I have to admit, I was devastated a few years ago when I found out that my favourite toothpaste – the kind that has ‘micro-crystals’ in it to get your teeth squeaky-clean – was full of plastic. Exactly the thing I loved about it was tiny bits of plastic that ended up in the sea causing all sorts of harm to the animals who unwittingly ingested it. Disappointedly and dutifully, I immediately stopped using this type of toothpaste, but have continued to be bothered by the non-recyclable packaging that toothpaste inevitably comes in.

That is, until yesterday. I’ve recently been pleased to see charcoal toothpaste becoming fashionable – yes, it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but at least it’s more natural than plastic – and was hunting for the best-value version I could find, when I spotted Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste in fully recyclable packaging! I was embittered to find it was a good deal more expensive than other basic toothpastes (aside from all the fashionable whitening varieties and so on), but my moral compass told me I had no choice but to buy it now I knew it was on offer. i do feel happier knowing I’m now empowered to make such a choice, and have also been enjoying Colgate’s bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes. Well done, Colgate!

New recyclable packaging from Colgate

Coconut scrubbers

Coconut scrubbers & scourers seem to have made a mini-explosion in the cleaning products market, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, I’ve been using an EcoCoconut scourer for the first time, and it’s excellent. They’re naturally antibacterial, which is an obvious plus for washing your dishes, and are also highly effective at scrubbing whilst also being non-abrasive, so they won’t ruin your pans. My dishes are clean and I’m no longer sending endless little bits of micro-plastic down the drain from a traditional scourer: it’s win-win!

Lush shampoo bars

When I talk about shampoo bars, friend often instantly retort that ‘they’re no good; they make my hair greasy’. Now, I’ve personally never used any shampoo bar other than Lush – I’ve never needed to because they’re so good – but have also heard friends say Lush is the only shampoo bar that doesn’t make their hair greasy. In other words, if you think you don’t get along with shampoo bars but haven’t tried the Lush ones, do it. They are, in short, amazing.

Not only are there obvious benefits of the plastic-free nature of this solution, but I find this stuff is just so good for my hair. I don’t need to wash it as often as I used to, and my bar of choice – Honey I Washed My Hair – is so softening I don’t even need conditioner. What’s more, their solid nature makes them easy to travel with and you can buy a handy tin or cork holder to transport them in. Brilliant!

Natural sponges

This could be a bit of a wildcard, but this year I’m attempting to grow my own sponges! We were offered a luffa plant (or loofah – same thing different spelling!) and jumped at the chance. This is the plant that the well-known back-scrubbing device luffa comes from. It’s a vine plant that produces fruit of a cucumber-type shape which, once dried out, can be used for various purposes such as slicing to use as sponges or scourers. I’ve read they can be a bit tricky to grow so will be interested to see how it pans out. I’m really excited to be giving it a go as it combines my newfound love of self-sufficiency through gardening with my passion to reduce waste from packaging. Watch this space!

Over to you…

What are your favourite eco-friendly household items? I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the Comments and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with my antics. Until next time!

Gardening, Recipes

Summer Hummus with Garden Herbs

I love using home-grown ingredients and the satisfaction that comes from that little bit of self-sufficiency. It’s too early for any fruit and veggies yet but my herbs are going strong and I wanted to share with you my summer hummus recipe that’s perfect for this time of year.

Hummus is my go-to lunch item as I try to stick to a high proportion of plant-based food. Given that I make it every week, the traditional version can get a bit samey, so I enjoy trying out different flavour combinations.

This lovely green hummus makes a great alternative to the classic recipe and is alive with the flavours of summer. I make it without tahini which gives it a certain lightness, but you can always add a tablespoon or two if you like. Mint and lemon verbena really give it that summery zing, but you can use whatever herbs you like from your garden; feel free to experiment with different combinations. Some of the quantities are deliberately vague as I like to be relaxed and go with the flow whilst making this, and encourage you to do the same!

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 125g dried chickpeas
  • Large handful of frozen peas
  • Handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • Small handful of mint and lemon verbena leaves (or other fresh herbs)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste

Method:

If using dried chickpeas, cook or sprout them according to your preferred method ahead of making your hummus. Otherwise, drain the can of chickpeas and save the aquafaba.

Put your frozen peas in the saucepan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Once warmed through, rinse with cool water to bring back to room temperature.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Add it to the food processor with the chickpeas, peas, spinach and herbs. Whizz up until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides with the spatula occasionally if needed.

Juice half the lemon and add the juice to the processor along with a good glug of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) and a splash of the aquafaba. Blend for a good few minutes until smooth (it takes patience!). Add more aquafaba if needed to get the desired consistency.

Taste and adjust: add lemon juice/zest, olive oil, salt pepper and chilli powder and continue to blend until you’ve reached your ideal flavour balance. Transfer to your container and store in the fridge. It’ll keep well for about 5 days.

Top tip: if your food processor has an accessory designed to help get a smooth consistency, use it! In the case of Magimix, I use the BlenderMix which stops the ingredients flying up the sides of the bowl, keeping them close to the blade an ensuring more effective blending.

Serve simply with pitta and carrot sticks or as a refreshing side to a summer salad.

A great alternative is to use broad beans in place of the peas & spinach, and add some green chilli for extra zing, Yummy!

I’ve got some other lovely home-grown recipes up my sleeve, so be sure to follow me to be the first to know about new recipes when they drop!

Note: As an Amazon Associate I will earn commission from qualifying purchases via links in this blog

Travel & Transport

Moving forward from COVID: How I hope travel habits will change

One positive thing I hope will emanate from the COVID-19 pandemic is an increased propensity for people to travel conscientiously. I’ve written elsewhere about some of the benefits I see being generated by the situation, one of them being environmental improvements. It has been encouraging to see miraculous improvements in air quality, most strikingly northern India having a view of the Himalayas for the first time in decades. I kind of think there’s an element of nature knowing what it’s doing, and the pandemic being its way of accelerating some sorely needed societal changes in a bid to save the planet from itself.

Of course, travel and transport can’t and won’t remain restricted to current levels, and indeed that wouldn’t be desirable even to the most dedicated eco-warrior. However, it seems likely that global travel will take quite some time to get back to normal, and rightly so. I hope that for many people, having been under such constraints will add more meaning to the idea of freedom to move around the world; make people realise the value of this amazing privilege.

Travel is undeniably nourishing for the soul and good for our wellbeing. It expands our minds, connects us with nature, introduces us to amazing people ad cultures, gives us much-needed rest & recuperation time. But all this comes at such an enormous cost to the planet: each passenger on a plane from London to New York accounts for the carbon-emission equivalent of an average car-driver for a whole year. Multiply that by the number of people per flight and the number of flights going here, there and everywhere each day, and it’s easy to see we have a problem.

Exploring my local area and feeling like I’m on holiday!

It’s only in recent years that I’ve become aware of how lucky I am to be able to travel, and the impact that doing so has on the planet. It really is such a privilege, yet it’s so easy and often cheap these days that it’s naturally taken for granted. I’ve become a far more conscious traveller in the last couple of years, being careful not to fly often and creative about the other options I can take advantage of (more on this in a later post!).

A vital component of my greener travel philosophy is the train. Sadly, the services are under-resourced and over-priced here in the UK, and there has long been a tendency for people to fly short distances (say, London to Manchester or Edinburgh) ‘because it’s cheaper’. Incidentally, recent events have highlighted just how precarious that fact was: FlyBe going bust whilst the British rail service remains intact just goes to show it wasn’t cheaper; the operator simply wasn’t charging enough to build the required amount of resilience into the business. (I’m just a tad less inclined to complain so much about the prices of trains here now, though it still infuriates me that I pay more to commute by public transport than I would to go by car as a sole occupant).

Clearly the airline industry is going to need quite some recovery from the current situation, which may well mean that people have no choice but to fly less because of availability. People may be encouraged to ask themselves: ‘do I really need to fly?’, and perhaps be more inclined to choose alternatives or travel less frequently. Gone are the days, surely, where business jet people off for a day here, an overnight stop there, mindlessly booking flight after flight after flight without a thought for the effects. Companies have been forced to work smarter by the current situation, and I think they’re really waking up to the prospect that travel simply isn’t necessary in many instances. Not only that, but there are so many benefits to remote working: increased productivity, improved staff wellbeing, cost savings… the list goes on.

Train travel: the way forward in the new world?

Back to our holidaymakers, globe-trotters and travel enthusiasts. Will we see people making more conscious decisions about the way the get around? I hope so. Having something taken away helps us realise the value of it, and I think that’s what will happen here. This brings to mind something I often think about modern Western life: that we have too much of everything and, as a result, too little appreciation. I recall stories from my parents and grandparents about how, when they were younger, every little thing had to be saved for, planned in, worked towards. That is so different from the life I know where I could have whatever I want, whenever I want, in a world of online shopping and instant gratification. Much as I’m grateful to live so comfortably, I sometimes envy them: it’s all too easy and I yearn for that sense of reward that comes from really having to earn something. A simpler life, but one that makes you truly appreciate things.

So that’s what I can see happening with travel: the limitations we’re under right now, and will likely be for some time albeit to a lesser extent, will inevitably make people think harder about what they really want out of their travels. What will their priorities be? How could they enjoy adventures closer to home by more sustainable travel methods? Will they limit trips by plane to once a year, perhaps?

We’re entering a new world; we have to be. People talk longingly about ‘going back to normal’, but things will never be the same as they were. Daunting as that may seem to some, my own dream is for a better world, with the current darkness making way for a brighter dawn than before. The earth has given us a second chance to live in harmony with it, and I for one hope we all seize it with the utmost enthusiasm.

How do you think COVID-19 will affect people’s travel behaviour? Will you be making any changes yourself as a result of these times? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to follow me for more on my green travel stories.

Plastic Pollution

A Top Tip for Tea-Drinking Types

I was astounded when I discovered, maybe a couple of years ago now, that teabags contain plastic. Once I knew, it seemed obvious – of course they’d disintegrate if they were just paper – but I was shocked at the time. I was also somewhat disturbed by this fact, given the amount of tea that I drink (I am English after all) and how many people throw teabags in their food waste bins. I was immediately on a mission to eradicate teabags from my life.

Loose tea is an obvious answer, and indeed I enjoy the process of selecting different varieties, making and drinking the tea. But sometimes loose-leaf just isn’t practical, you don’t have the time or, if you’re anything like me, you just fancy the type of brew that only comes from an English Breakfast tea bag. Not only is this problematic because of the plastic, but also because most teabags are bleached, which isn’t good for the body either. There must be a better way…

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Clipper Tea bags are not only unbleached but plastic-free too. What’s more, their Everyday variety is about the tastiest I’ve ever come across – amazing! Oh, and of course it’s Fairtrade too…

Even more happily, it turns out Clipper originated right here in my home county of Dorset. I feel rather proud of that! On writing this post, I worried that it would only be relevant for people living in the UK, but no: Clipper has branched out internationally to over 50 countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. So wherever you are, I hope you find yourself able to sample this wonderful English tea, guilt-free.

I invite you to make a brew, sit back, relax and browse the rest of my site. Aaah.

Travel & Transport

How the e-cargo-bike as a second vehicle has transformed my life

From food shopping to date nights, here’s how the e-bike has changed my life forever…

I once heard of an argument between a couple of friends when one of them had bought an e-bike. A protagonist reprimanded the buyer for ‘cheating’ on the bike by having pedal assistance. This is a common critique of the e-bike concept, but completely misses the point. The e-biker in question was using it for a daily 34-mile round-trip to work. Considering the proportion of journeys less than 2 miles that are done by car, this is staggering and, in my view, pretty impressive. The e-bike in this case does not substitute a regular bike; it takes a car off the road, and for that should be hailed.

E-bike as car alternative

In a world where it seems that nearly every household has a car per person, my partner and I like to do things a little differently. We have a small, relatively economical car (which we barely use – more on this in a later post!) – and an e-cargo bike as our second vehicle. Technically the car is mine and the bike is his, but we essentially share them both to get best use out of each.

Jason has always been an active traveller and buying the e-bike – a Tern GSD – was an inevitable extension of this because he carries a lot of gear for work. It’s an amazing machine which carries up to 200 kilos, rides like a dream and turns heads everywhere it goes (not least because of the colour!). Whilst gaining access to the Tern was, for me, a mere by-product of Jason’s choices, I wouldn’t want to be without it now. Quite frankly, it’s changed my life.

For Jason, this bike is an extension of his personality and of the lifestyle he’s led for decades as a ‘utility cyclist’. For me, it’s a game-changing tool in my quest to live sustainably. And for both of us, it’s an absolute joy to ride.

GSD stands for Get Stuff Done. That’s a pretty apt strapline, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the stuff we get done on the Tern (and where we might like to take it next!)

Shopping & deliveries

I used to despair over food shopping because I simply couldn’t carry everything on a regular bike (bulky items like loo roll soon fill up a bog-standard rucksack or pannier!), which forced me to drive to the supermarket more often than I’d like. Whilst my guilt was tempered by the fact that I barely used the car outside of this, it felt so wrong doing such a short trip by car.

The Tern has transformed my weekly routine into a much greener one.

With two huge panniers and a front rack, my days of being unable to carry a bulky food shop are over. Sometimes it takes a bit of careful arrangement to fit it all in securely – cue anecdote of the time I went over a bump causing several items to bounce out of the front and scatter across the road – but by and large the machine carries everything with ease. If I’m doing a big shop I’ll take a rucksack as backup, and have been known to transport wine in the bottle cage!

The e-bike has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’ve shopped less frequently and collected groceries for relatives occasionally. We were particularly pleased by how the box of Corona we picked up – which was on special price because of damaged packaging, not because of its connotation! – fit snuggly in the front crate on one such occasion! (We don’t actually drink that much; I promise!!)

E-bike date-nights

If we needed to, we could actually carry a massive crate on the back as well as the panniers. Such is the versatility of this machine though that it transports more than just cargo. Fitted with a comfy removable pad, the back of the bike doubles up as a people carrier! A GSD comfortably carries two kids (with the right configuration), or in our case one delighted, child-like adult (me!).

On these occasions we tend to stick to gender stereotypes, with Jason piloting and me riding on the back. (We tried it the other way round once when J needed a lift to the station with a chunky weekend bag. This was before the front rack had arrived and the bag wouldn’t fit in a pannier, so he had to hold it on his lap whilst riding. The movement of the bag as we travelled kept shifting the balance of the bike and making me wobbly. Not an experience I’d recommend!)

These ‘couple-trips’ – visits to the cinema and the like – are some of the most fun times on the bike, and by far the most head-turning. We literally watch people gawping at us, open-mouthed in astonishment, as we go by. Whilst I’m far from the type who seeks to be centre of attention, it does make us chuckle and we get a glimmer of satisfaction from being a bit out of the ordinary!

Wedding taxi!

My favourite example is the time we used the Tern as our taxi to and from a friend’s wedding reception! The ceremony and reception were 8 miles apart; not a distance I’d expect any wedding-goer to make by bike. Fortuitously, both venues were situated conveniently: the church nearby my parents’ house, where I happened to have stayed the previous night to cat-sit, and the reception just a couple of miles from my current abode. So, post-ceremony, we strolled back to my family home, hopped in the car and popped home to grab the GSD. We landed at the hotel just in time to see the bride & groom arrive, and didn’t have to stress about tackling a jam-packed car park. It was a beach location on a glorious day so the road was teeming. We enjoyed being waved and called at by car-dwellers edging their way towards the sand as we glided past on two wheels.  

Hopes & dreams

Having the GSD in my life has undoubtedly changed it for the better, but I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this ingenious machine. When the time is right I’d like to test its limits and see what more it can do for us. We’re particularly keen to see how it handles a weekend away or camping trip…

Watch this space for more on my e-bike adventures!