2020: the age of anxiety

Here we are, in the latter half of what’s been a bloody gruelling year and I know I want to write again, to air out my frustrations and re-learn how to start sharing my attempts at living a sustainable lifestyle, but it feels so much harder than before. So much has happened recently that could easily destroy anyone’s faith in humanity. Politics is a shit show. Globally, not just locally. The public’s views seem to be more extreme either way than ever before, at least in my mere 26 years of experience. The media has more control over how we think and feel than most of us ever fully realised, which is terrifying, and social media knows more about us nowadays than we know about ourselves. Yet there is still hope, in a few places.

People like AOC and Jacinda Adern and the late RBG inspire me to push through and get to work on making a better future by acting now. Even closer to home, each time I speak to or see Sophie on my weekly Ripple shops or Phill & Deb on my almost-just-as-regular Dusty Knuckle indulgences I’m in awe of their sheer will, determination and incredible resilience to keep carrying on, despite the world seeming to work against us at every given opportunity. And that’s what keeps me going, what’s pushing me to overcome my mental block and eco-anxiety and get back to it.

The thing that’s been holding me back is that I just feel overwhelmed. And anxious as a result. I don’t even know if you’ll have read this far, thank you if you have. But I can’t be alone in this feeling that I more and more often need to take a step back from environmental news, from online activism, from self-education and all the other things that consume our lives as environmentalists so much so that there’s hardly any room for anything else. There is nothing else, everything relates back to this social and environmental injustice that we cannot escape.

And escaping it at all is a demonstration of my white, cis-gendered, middle-class privilege that I haven’t earned in any way, shape or form and undoubtedly benefits me more than I can ever fully understand, despite my best efforts. So why should I? Why should I get to put my phone down and walk away when others can’t? I don’t deserve to take a break because the world doesn’t take a break. Capitalism and racism and LGBTQIA phobia don’t take breaks. But I have to otherwise I’ll explode. You can’t give from an empty cup, or however the saying goes.

Where do I start from then? To get back on course with doing all I can possibly do to make things change – or at least, sharing it. And herein lies another problem: I’ve plateaued in my ‘sustainability’ attempts. If anything, 99% of us will have gone backwards during the pandemic, but some sort of normality is returning in the sense that plastic-free fruit & veg is still pretty widely available, veg boxes and recipe boxes are still available and hopefully many more people are now enjoying the benefits they bring with them. Zero waste/refill shops are back open, my local Ripple is now letting us bring our own containers back which is a life saver (I’m awful at working things out by grams) so there are already habits we can bring back into our lives to give us a bit more sense of control over the situation, albeit limited compared to before.

In Cardiff, several of our wonderful local indepedents are championing a Contactless Coffee campaign where they’re allowing people to begin using reusable coffee cups again in a bid to bring them back into public normality. Indeed, scientifically there is no reason why everywhere can’t now accept them back, but there’s resistance to change for fear of liability and/or of a virus we don’t really understand. Where possible, therefore, it’s important to support those that are already brave enough and conscientious enough to do this – you can find a list here. In even more recent news, Refill have now updated their app to allow you to find nearby places not just to refill your water bottle, but also your coffee, take your own food containers or shop plastic free. These are just two small ways you can bring some control back over the single-use waste in your life, and it’s a lifeline for the eco-anxiety we all feel now more than ever. That’s not to make light of anxiety, I actually do mean anxiety. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of people reporting high levels of anxiety and almost 1 in 5 UK adults feeling hopeless (compared to 1 in 3 18-24 year olds). I’m not ashamed to admit I had a few more counselling sessions to work some things out – and fortunate enough to have the privilege and access to do so.

Although this is another thing that’s stressing me out is this seemingly constant need to justify everything at the moment. To constantly acknowledge my privilege when referring to anything and everything. I’m not saying don’t acknowledge it at all because that would be part of the problem, but I finally seem to have fallen down the hole I successfully avoided for so much of my online life of not feeling good enough or woke enough to be able to exist or compete in the online sustainability space. It’s exhausting. I used to do this for me and only me, I wasn’t worried about acceptance or being proven wrong. It was enough just to have a passion I could share with the world.

Well, rightly or wrongly I want that back. I’m determined to back myself again in this space because one person can make a difference, we’ve seen evidence of that time and time again. Do the work on the social injustice, diversify your social media feeds and continue the background reading but for F sake don’t be afraid to share your sustainable little swaps with the world in case someone might criticise your privilege. There might be someone that comes across your sphere of influence who genuinely learns something new, or if you’re lucky, feels inspired. (Talking to myself here). Just yesterday I watched the final episode of Zac Efron’s Down To Earth on Netflix, which takes a fascinating look at examples of sustainable living from around the world and how small changes in our behaviour can make a difference. However, in this final episode there are California wildfires whilst Zac and co-host Darin Olien are off-grid in the Amazon. They return to civilisation to find that Darin’s home has burned down and he now has everything he owns with him on this trip. It’s astounding. Gob-smacking. And this is someone who has many of the same privileges as many of us in the UK do, does all he can possibly do to tread lightly on the planet and encourage others to do the same, yet he has still been directly impacted by the very climate crisis we try to work against. I’ve heard that Sir David’s latest documentary is having a similar impact on people, I just haven’t emotionally prepared myself for it yet because I know I’m going to weep, but I’m simultaneously thrilled that it’s reaching a wide audience.

These things have reignited a fire under my arse to share my findings, no matter how small, because you never know who might be listening (or in this case, reading). So with this in mind, here are a few things we can all do right now to regain some control on our lives:

  1. Allow yourself to take digital detoxes. Whether it’s an #Offline48, turning your phone off at 9pm, or just muting social media for a few hours a day, it will all help. You need your energy to keep fighting.
  2. Wear reusable face masks as often as you can. It’s not always possible, but try to always keep one on hand.
  3. Take your shopping bags with you everywhere. This hasn’t changed since the pandemic and it’s just one of many ways we can keep pesky plastics at bay. (The best thing we got during lockdown was a granny trolley, highly recommend).
  4. Find out where nearby you can take your reusable coffee cup/containers and make sure you do it. Support them. If your favourite places aren’t doing this, kindly point them to research which supports it.
  5. Plan your meals to avoid wasting food (& money). Freeze leftovers or keep them for another day. Plan in your treat meals so you can still support local restaurants – within your own means.

More on this coming very soon…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Home Made Sustainable: part 1 – Bedrooms

Welcome to my new series, Home Made Sustainable! I warned you this was coming and finally I’m getting things written down which have been in my head for months! I’m super excited about it because my hope is that some small portion of my experience may be useful to somebody, even if only slightly, but also I’m determined to be realistic and openly discuss the fine line we all tend to tread between being super sustainable and conscious consumers and being human.


Last December my other half and I were fortunate enough to have completed on our first house; a project house. We were really excited to get our creative juices flowing and put our own stamp on everything, but there was a big project ahead of us and it went off to a really bad start with a serious mouse infestation, rotten floorboards, litter everywhere and general disrepair.

It may seem strange to start with the bedrooms in a new house, however for us this was the most logical way of doing things as they needed the least work (and enabled us to stay there from time to time). When I say the least work, I still mean full wipe-down and redecoration as well as new, non-mouse-pee-stained carpets.

Yes, this is our bedroom the day we got the keys. I wasn’t exaggerating.

Mouse house

The mice were actually the first challenge in doing things earth-friendly: how could we get rid of them without fumigating or mouse traps and killing them all off rather painfully and dramatically? Turns out it took time and patience but eventually they moved on thanks to a plug-in frequency emitter thing my OH found on the internet. Apparently it can take up to a month or so because they won’t leave if they have young; the builders did have an uninvited guest to their lunchtime doughnuts one time and we were beginning to worry we’d have to take some more drastic measures, but thankfully the mixture of frequency, loud banging & drilling and lack of food seemed to steer them away – phew. We now also have two mischievous cats which naturally helps.

Renovating responsibly

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices in renovation there are a multitude of alternative products available on the market: special brands of paint (e.g. Earthborn), wool carpets, reclaimed wood floorboards etc. However the unfortunate problem is the often comparable cost increase. Now, the cost of environmentally sustainable products is a whole other debate and generally speaking I am a firm believer in paying that price, the ‘true cost’, but the thing is that it’s not always doable. Sure, I’ll pay £7 for a natural deodorant compared to a £1 aerosol of animal-tested Sure (although I’m finding a love-hate relationship with natural deodrants as someone who needs antiperspirant), but carpets and paints etc. are a whole other ball game – they’re not cheap to begin with and, like most first time buyers, we had a limited budget. This is one of the reasons I want to write this series; to encourage people to do what they can when they can’t do everything and not to feel guilty about it (which I have to constantly remember). To paraphrase the popular saying ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing sustainable perfectly, but more people doing it imperfectly’.


Medium oak varnish on the sanded floorboards


Feature wallpaper up! Birds print from Leekes

Master Bedroom

So, here is where I started. We sanded down the floorboards that were underneath the manky old carpet and kept them exposed just in this one room, knowing that it would be a hell of a lot of work to keep them exposed everywhere else. The fact that I stained and varnished them myself gives me joy every single day and really leans into the natural, woody tones we like to go for. The furniture is a mixture of new and second-hand but mostly the latter:

  • New – bed frame, rug (under bed), shower curtain pole, mattress, made-to-measure blinds
  • Second-hand – chest of drawers, bedside tables, mirror, makeshift wardrobe (not pictured because it was hideous).

I looked high and low for a second-hand bed in the style I was after but was having trouble finding the right thing. I then looked for FSC certified wooden bed frames but again, budget came calling so we ended up with an eBay bargain we assembled ourselves. Similar with the rug, we kept looking on FB marketplace but wanted something to pick up the accents in the feature wallpaper (which is Leekes, by the way if you’re interested) and nothing was hitting the spot. Boxing Day bargains saw us the bedroom rug and our main sofa (which we had to remove a window to get in). There were pangs of guilt for this but obviously these are not items we intend to replace for a long time and will do our best to sell-on once we do, so I think it’s important to be realistic. The other thing on the new list is a shower curtain pole, which sounds odd but was a touch of Pinterest-inspired genius to allow for extra wardrobe room in the smaller of the two alcoves. The made-to-measure blinds were chosen because of the way our windows open, so their ability to position any which way is super helpful and means we can maintain privacy whilst letting light in. The honeycomb shape also allows for better heat insulation apparently – they’re from blinds2go if you were interested.

I feel it important to mention our choice of new mattress for a second, because there seem to be an abundance of options available at the moment all with very similar selling points (e.g. Eve, Simba, Emma, Leesa…). I did some thorough research, read lots of reviews and formed a spreadsheet to figure it all out. In the end, we chose the Leesa mattress [not in any way sponsored] because not only to they plant a tree for each mattress they sell, but they also donate 1 in every 10 sold to charities. Isn’t that fantastic?! And yet it’s not featured much on their current advertising which baffles me completely! But this is an area I feel proud to be doing more ethically despite it being a new purchase.


The chest of drawers is the perfect example of the woody tones we love and came from OH’s grandparents’ farm – it’s about 80-90 years old! Huge, deep drawers too which I’ve relined with leftover wallpaper from the feature wall. The bedside tables were a Facebook marketplace bargain with funky knobs added by yours truly (TK Maxx purchase), as was the mirror. The makeshift wardrobe I can’t really stand (hence why it’s not pictured! It had a hideous cheap plastic covering) but it had been hanging around my parents’ house unused for years, so for now it does the job, along with the drawers & pole. I keep wishfully looking at second-hand wardrobes on marketplace but transport is a problem – alternatively there are several charity furniture shops in Cardiff but bearing in mind the problems we had manoeuvring the sofa in, and the sharp twist at the top of the already narrow stairs, I’m concerned about getting something in in one piece. It also seems a real shame to waste any space in the large alcove so I’m currently in the process of installing scaffold board shelving and heavy duty curtain poles to form open wardrobes – keep an eye on Instagram for updates.

As for the paint, varnish and wallpaper, all of it was bought new and was a mixture of Dulux/Ronseal/Wickes own brand/standard white emulsion. I looked on Facebook and there are some good second hand decorating materials on there, but this was an all-hands-on-deck type of project and we were stressed enough as it was without needing to add guilt on top. Of course now we have a load of rollers etc. that we need to store somewhere, but that’s the way it goes!


This is oldest photo I can find of the spare bedroom, but this was just after us painting it.

Guest bedroom

The other two bedrooms we carpeted with a kind of natural neutral colour my grandmother-in-law had from Pye Auctions (grandparents are pro at spotting a good deal or donating great pieces!) and furnished again with mostly second hand furniture. The spare bedroom we originally painted pink & purple as you can see above, but I regret the purple now and am planning to slowly change the decor to deep greens for a more botanical feel. I’ve started this off already with a curtain I deployed my mother to make for me, though we’ll likely install a blind as well as this is the sunniest room in the house. I really need a better photo of the dressing table to do it justice; I’ll try post one on Instagram soon.

  • Second hand – day bed & trundle, 1 of the mattresses (both from family, not sure how I’d feel about a 2nd hand mattress from strangers), dressing table (a DREAMY vintage charity shop find!), chair, first set of curtains (now replaced), curtain pole, cushions & TV & bedding etc. I had already.
  • New – IKEA kallax unit (we’re likely to sell this on as it didn’t fit either of the spaces properly), 1 mattress, current curtain fabric.

Third bedroom (aka Office)

The third bedroom is our designated office and has been entirely second hand decorated bar a new filing cabinet (not pictured), including this fantastic rug from my parents we had in our living room back in the ’90s. I love it! The desk isn’t as sturdy or deep as I’d ideally like, so this will be replaced eventually however I’ve spotted a company I like the look of – @lovemuju – so hope to invest in one of their reclaimed, handmade desks one day or nab another Facebook bargain. The idea for this room was to paint it all grey and then have coloured accents, which it does but clearly not as defined as your standard insta photo; realistically though that’s not really my style!


Mid-progress, painting done


Office set up – I love our rug! (There’ll be some greenery added)


There’s since been a yellow clock added on the wall to match a new filing cabinet

So there you have it, an introduction to the chaos that is my house renovation. There’s plenty more yet to come, I think I may have to split the kitchen into two posts as that’s a long and traumatic story! But I’m really pleased so many of you seem interested so please let me know any thoughts in the comments box below 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

My fabulous first year!

So today my blog is officially a year old – time flies! It’s definitely been a learning curve and I’m still learning new things all the time with plenty more still yet to come. However, I thought I’d write a quick little update on what I’ve learned in my first year, so here goes…

It is a hobby, but it’s a lot more time-consuming than you may first realise.

Social media is a huge part of our lives these days, for better for worse, and it’s where many of our main influencers now come from. With this in mind, it’s a hugely important part of promoting yourself and gaining recognition as a blogger and widening your audience. Yes, some people are much better at taking the typical ‘instagrammable’ photos than others especially if they have a fancy camera, but you can still do a lot with the photos you do take just by trying different angles and edits/effects. Either way, this takes time; I’ve found that working full time in something unrelated can make it hard to juggle everything so the fact you can save things as drafts and schedule posts nowadays is an absolute life-saver – it’s basically a part-time job! Although it does depend on how seriously you want to take it and at the end of the day, I’ve gathered you get out what you put in.

Also, twitter is a huge part of engagement and networking with other bloggers, restaurants and influencers so when the twitter convo strikes up it’s important not to be late to the party if at all possible. I’ve also realised there’s no need to be afraid to talk to people you recognise from twitter or Instagram, this is how you make meaningful connections and even friendships and therefore gain supporters for your blog and vice versa. It also means that if you both go to the same event or go out together, you both come away with useful material.

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own.

File_000 (73)For me this wasn’t really an issue anyway as I enjoy meeting and speaking to new people and don’t find social situations too awkward, but it links in with the above in that it’s important to physically talk to others you recognise from or have connected with in the blogosphere as this is how you make friendships and good connections and may just lead you onto opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise known about (such as the fabulous Cardiff Gin Club, for example!).

Read other peoples’ blogs and take interest.

This, again links back to making friends and connections but also, as a new and developing blogger it was really useful reading other popular blogs to get a sense of how everyone portrays their own individual style and also how other bloggers have designed their websites, whether there’s anything you like about theirs that you can work into yours somehow. I’m yet to do a review and rehaul of my page but it’s something I’ll be considering over the next few months so watch this space… Plus, reading other peoples blogs can give you ideas for new posts of your own, give you great insight into some of the places on your to-eat list you perhaps haven’t quite got around to yet, or even just give you something to talk about next time you see them.

Finally, there are no hard and fast rules. Yes, engagement and all the PR side of things is important and if you’re dead set on posting three times daily then you’re doing very well for yourself, however it’s different for everyone. Just remember that comparing yourself to others never did anyone any good – true in many aspects of life. As I said, it starts as a hobby at the end of the day and if you start stressing yourself out over it all (as I have done many a time and probably still will) then you’re in danger of losing the funFile_000 (72) and why you started it in the first place.

For me, it’s a creative outlet where I don’t usually get one in my day job. Also happens to give me a perfect excuse to eat out a lot. However through this I’ve met some lovely people and eaten some fantastic food and I really look forward to seeing where else I can go with it all.


Happy Anniversary to me!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*the cover photo is a personalised olive wood cheese board my boyfriend was lovely enough to buy me!