Our Year In Review: 2021


The end of 2021 has been and gone, and now here we are in 2022 setting ourselves some new goals and reflecting on how well we've met last year's...



We've had some triumphs and some struggles this year. Many of our trees have survived, but a handful have not; we have found ourselves travelling again, raising important questions about offsetting; we had a completely meat-free Christmas dinner for the first time, though we may not have stuck to our weekly target very strictly; and we've embarked on some interesting new projects...


As a little reminder for those readers who don't know us, Julia and Julian are the parents of the family, and they have 4 children: Ivan (29), Josh (27), Jessica (24), and Leon (18).



Trees


As set out in our first blog on tree planting, we initially intended to plant 360 trees all in one go, in 2020. This was a bit ambitious. In late 2020, after careful planning and selection, we managed to get 270 trees in the ground in our paddock, with another 20 added in early 2021 in the form of a small orchard. A few months later, 20 juniper trees and a Monkey Puzzle tree joined them. A few have not survived, but all told our planting efforts add up to 311 trees, which still leaves 49 of our 360 trees left to plant.


In 2022, we are committed to reaching that target, and hopefully more. We are waiting on 2 Toffee Apple trees that will go into the ground this tree-planting season in early 2022, and we also have 2 firs to be planted. This Christmas, we decided against buying a full-size, freshly chopped-down Christmas tree. Instead, we bought ourselves a pretend wooden Christmas tree that, although it still involves the chopping-down of a tree, will last us many years to come. In addition to this wooden sculpture, we bought 3 very small, living firs that we decorated and placed around the house, and which will be left to grow in the garden in pots until they are brought in briefly again next year, and the year after that, and then subsequently planted.



As also mentioned in our first blog on tree planting, we want to eventually offset the amount of oxygen we extract from the air just by breathing by planting an extra 7-8 trees per person every year (that's 1,350 trees by 2050), but for that, we would need extra land. In fact, the 49 trees we have left to plant of our original 360 may also need to go on some extra land. We made several attempts last year to do this, but one negotiation fell through, and the other has hit some complications. We hope to move forward with this in 2022.


Although it doesn't compare to actually planting a tree with your own two hands, I have also managed to plant 220 trees in 2021 on my phone, through TreeApp. The app allows you to "plant" a tree every day by clicking through adverts for sustainable products (some of which are pretty great!), raising the necessary funds to plant that tree in one of their many projects. I missed quite a few days, so I'm setting myself a personal target to beat 220 trees in 2022. Julia and Julian have both signed up to TreeApp for 2022 and are also now donating their Nectar points to the Woodland Trust.



Flights and Offsetting


With no flights taken in 2020 due to the pandemic, plans to travel were put on hold...until this year. With restrictions lifted in the summer, I finally made it out to Granada with my boyfriend, where I have been volunteering on a small permaculture farm in the mountains. This made for a perfect excuse to visit since Granada is also where Julian's father and stepmother live. Julia and Julian went in late September, and Ivan and his girlfriend went in November.


That means that 4 of our 6 family members used up our return flight for 2021 and now have to offset them. Offsetting, however, can be a bit complicated. There are plenty of online calculators that can help with working out how much CO2 your flights have emitted, however, there's a lot of disagreement across different calculators on the exact amount and how much that translates to as a cost for offsetting.


For example, the Climate Care calculator tells me that my return flight from Bristol to Malaga emitted 0.51 tonnes of CO2e, while the MyClimate calculator shows 0.608 tonnes of CO2. Through Climate Care, offsetting is priced at £8.50 per tonne, meaning it will cost me £4.35 to offset my return flight by investing in their non-specific portfolio of "Climate+Care programmes", meanwhile MyClimate costs anywhere from £13 - £44 depending on which specific project I choose to invest in. Alternatively, offsetting my flight directly through Ryanair when buying my ticket only cost me around £2 which, although convenient and cheap, may not be enough to mitigate the effects of the CO2e emitted.


In his book, Hope in Hell, Jonathon Porritt suggests that the price for carbon offsetting should be closer to £35 per tonne*. It follows that a return flight from Bristol to Malaga, at an average of 0.56 tonnes of CO2e emitted, should cost me about £20. Doing the calculation ourselves, 1 tree offsets 1 tonne of CO2 over 100 years, so 5 trees would be required in order to offset 0.5 tonnes over the critical next 10 years. The Woodland Trust offer 1 tree per pound, but that figure is heavily subsidised. Assuming low-grade agricultural land costs around half of the average price, this works out at about £17.50 for the 20 square metres of land needed for 5 trees. Plus the £1 each for the 5 trees, is £22.50.




The next question is how to do the offsetting, which can be a bit of a minefield. Going directly through the airline or through Climate Care is cheap and easy, but it's hard to know where the money is actually going. MyClimate feels closer to the right price and offers more details on specific projects around the globe to invest in, yet I find myself feeling disconnected from them.



In the end, I favour the DIY approach - calculating the emissions and the cost, and donating that amount to sustainable projects and organizations I have chosen myself. Since the flight was from Bristol to Malaga, I decided to split the cost roughly between one project in the UK and one in Spain. Having witnessed the dry landscapes of Andalucia and the increasing anxiety over olive monoculture and desertification in southern Spain, I decided to donate €10 to Danyadara, a non-profit focusing on reversing desertification in Andalucia through permaculture and sustainable farming. I also donated £10 to the UK-based Woodland Trust, whose protected woodlands are a guaranteed ongoing form of carbon capture.


Julia and Julian have donated £20 each to Woodland Trust to offset their flights. In an effort to save as much money as possible before moving to London, and to do something physically tangible, Ivan is going to plant 5 trees by hand in the paddock.


* The actual figure Jonathon Porritt quoted was $50, but I have converted this to GBP.



Eating Less Meat


This goal is one we struggled with. I know for a fact that we have reduced our meat consumption significantly, but I couldn't tell you by how much. We didn't do a very good job of keeping track of how many meals in a week contained meat, so we don't know how well we met our original target of no more than 4 meals of meat or fish/seafood per week. That's definitely one of our goals for this year. For 2022, we're starting out the year doing pescetarian January, and for the rest of the year we'll be marking on the calendar when we've eaten meat, fish, or seafood to keep track of our weekly intake. We also want to start getting a seasonal organic veg box to keep food miles and plastic packaging super low.


That said, we did manage to concoct an absolutely delicious meat-free Christmas dinner "menu", which I thought would be fun to share here. We had...



Pomegranate & Chestnut Sprouts from BBC Good Food, which I personally think is a delightful alternative to traditional roasted sprouts, with shredded Brussel sprouts fried in pomegranate molasses, like a cabbagey stir-fry with a flavourful sour citrus kick. If you don't have any pomegranate molasses you can always use a bit of lemon and lime juice mixed with something sweet like plum jam or pomegranate juice.


Glazed citrus-ginger carrots from Sainsbury's Magazine was another of our quick and easy side dishes, offering up a gentle citrusy flavour that cuts so well through the heaviness and richness of the rest of Christmas dinner. We also had some traditional roast potatoes sprinkled with rosemary, because how could you not.


Our stuffed mushrooms, stuffed with homemade stuffing, were done to our own made-up recipe. We took medium-sized portabello mushrooms and removed the stalks, and then filled each of the cups up with a stuffing of our own design: breadcrumbs, parsley, and chestnut all blended in a food processer, with garlic (we used pureed roasted garlic), fried onion, and a tiny splash of dairy-free cream to bind it all together, sprinkled with grated vegan cheese and pine nuts. They were then roasted in the oven and served alongside our Vegetarian Wellington.


Our Veggie Wellington was this one, with some slight alterations to the nuts used and with the use of real eggs rather than flaxseeds or another alternative, purely because we didn't have any.


Mushroom and Sherry Sauce by Sarah Brown was our replacement for gravy, and so long as you like mushrooms, it's an absolutely delicious alternative. Dare I say it, it may even be better than normal gravy. It's fairly thick and very rich, but you can always balance the consistency and flavour by adding more stock if you like. We used dairy-free butter and gluten-free flour.



Clothing/Fashion


Our previous goal of no more than 1 new item of clothing a month (excluding anything bought second-hand or homemade), was difficult to keep track of. We went many months without buying anything and then would buy several things at once. In addition to this, the lockdown and the fact that most of us are currently self-employed and working from home has meant that the need for new fashion items or professional dress for meetings has been significantly reduced. This makes it very difficult to set new goals improving on last year because last year wasn't a normal year. That said, we would like to set ourselves the goal for 2022 of keeping better track of how many new items of clothing we buy, and keeping the number to a minimum. We also want to make a conscious effort to buy from sustainable brands.


It's become very apparent that where we buy clothes from is equally as important as how much we're buying. Buying second-hand and repairing or redesigning are the best options, but where new clothes were needed we tried to buy sustainably. For example, I was gifted a lot of socks this Christmas, having requested replacements for the many irreparable hole-filled socks I currently have. As a result, I was given 6 new pairs of socks, 4 of which were from the sustainable brand BAM (made from bamboo), and 2 of which were made from organic cotton and bought from local independent shops. These materials are some of the most environmentally friendly materials available.


We also bought quite a lot of new sportswear this year that should last a long time and used the Good On You directory to assess how sustainable the brands available were. Most sportswear was bought from Adidas who score a "good" rating with 4/5 on "planet", but some shoes were bought from Nike who, while only having an "it's a start" rating with 3/5 on "planet", have higher quality shoes than other sports brands, meaning that they should last longer.


We also want to congratulate Leon, who didn't buy a single piece of first-hand clothing in 2021 for himself, and who is finding many interesting ways to recycle the family's old clothing to make new fashion items.



Projects


Julia and Julian have been experimenting with cellular clay blocks as a more sustainable alternative to concrete in the creation of a new shed/workshop space below our parking deck. More on this in blogs to come...




Sharing what we've learnt


We've been a little lax on the posting schedule in 2021, writing a bunch of blogs all in one go around the beginning of the year and then nothing for quite a long time. We have a lot of ideas on the go though, and a lot of research that has only made it as far as notes and family conversations, so this year we'll endeavour to do better and post more regularly.


We're going to start with a monthly target and see how that pans out, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

Did you try out any exciting new meatless recipes for Christmas or New Year in 2021? Share them with us! Got any recommendations for offsetting flights or ways to plant large numbers of trees? We'd love to know! Leave a message in the comments below for us, or feel free to contact us via the form at the bottom of the page...



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