A Focus On Nature

Now for Nature

Nature DIY!

There has been a huge shift in society towards nature conservation. In the last year especially, we have seen a monumental rise in public interest regarding protecting our environment thanks to programmes like Planet Earth and Blue Planet (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sir David has magical powers when it comes to public engagement!). More people than ever before are being careful about how much meat they consume, how much waste they produce, and are thinking seriously about their carbon footprint.

One particular issue that seems to have gripped the nation is the impact of plastics on the environment. For some time now, environmentalists have been waging a war on single-use plastics, and it seems like the rest of the country is finally catching up. People are foregoing disposable water bottles and grabbing their morning latte in reusable cups; lunches are prepped and proudly displayed in Pinterest-worthy mason jars and Tupperware. Zero waste shops are on the rise, and the plastic bag charge has successfully reduced usage in Scotland by 80%, since its introduction in 2014.

This is all fantastic news, and as a conservationist I do a little jump for joy when I see the turnouts at beach cleans, and people proudly carting their bags for life about in supermarkets. But the war is far from over. We could all be doing more – myself included. Although I have always tried to be conscious of my single-use waste, sometimes it’s difficult to be completely plastic free, as much as I’d like to be. I spend a lot of my time on the road, and some of the more remote places in Scotland don’t offer much in the way of eco-friendly cafes and shops. After a thirsty afternoon of fieldwork, sometimes it’s hard to not be tempted by a refreshing bottle of juice from the petrol station. Plus, I don’t have the luxury of living near a zero-waste shop or a farmer’s market – I try as hard as I can, but sometimes plastic sneaks its way in. The punnets that strawberries come in, for example, or that little plastic pot of humous. I’m often left with more plastic waste than I’d like, loitering guiltily in my recycling box.

This is why I was excited when we were approached by Sainsbury’s to road test some of their new eco-friendly DIY guides. You may have seen them advertised on AFON’s social media – easy ways to use plastic in a way that actually helps the environment. And so, I set aside my Sunday and got my DIY on, all in the name of lending nature a helping hand.

Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder

While I wouldn’t encourage people to go out and buy plastic bottles, this is a great way to put old ones to good use. The only extra stuff you need is bird seed, a pair of sharp scissors (luckily I’m an ‘adult’ – I use this term lightly – so didn’t need supervision, but I did nearly spear my hand on a few occasions so please be careful!), some string and two pencils to act as perches.

I whipped this together in under 20 minutes. I’m not fortunate enough to have a garden, but there is a lawn and a border of trees at the end of our car park, where I hung my feeder. I made sure to hang it high enough so that the local moggies couldn’t grab an easy snack!

The feeder has been hanging there since this morning, and on my way past I’ve noticed a fair few visitors. One was this robin, singing his wee heart out. After the long, harsh winter this year, it’s no surprise the birds are celebrating the arrival of spring.

Fruit punnet herb boxes

It’s an odd predicament – you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, so you buy some nice soft fruit. But then the fruit comes in a pesky plastic container, which slightly impinges on your goal to have a healthy environment. I’ve had a stack of these in my kitchen cupboard for a long time, trying to think of something creative to do with them. Well, Sainsbury’s gave me the idea of using them to grow my own wee herb garden. They’re actually ideal, as they come with ready-made drainage holes in the base.

You will need a bit more for this one – some compost, some seeds, a trowel if you don’t like getting your hands dirty. For some reason, none of my local shops had mint seeds (possibly the tropical weather of late meant the shops felt there was no point in even trying to sow them?) so I’ve gone for good old hearty thyme, and the more fickle basil. I’ve placed them in the sunniest spot on my kitchen windowsill and hopefully some will grow!

Overall, these guides were super easy and a great way to spend an afternoon. Check them out for yourself below, and don’t forget to share your photos with us!

Isla Hodgson is studying for a PhD in conservation science at Aberdeen University, and is AFON’s Associate Director. She is also a freelance researcher for natural history film, most recently working at the BBC, and has just published her first book on British wildlife, Hidden Nature! She is successfully distracted from all these projects by adventures with wildlife (and dogs).  Follow Isla on Twitter @isla_dawn, and check out her website www.wherethewildthingslive.co.uk.