With its many parks and access to the countryside, it's no wonder that Oxford is a place with plenty of scope for green living. Daily Info has collected all the hints and tips you'll need to live ethically amongst the dreaming spires.
You are what you eat, they say. Organic food is available from an ever-increasing number of Oxford outlets; at Daily Info we rather like the takeaway Alpha Bar in the Covered Market and Uhuru Wholefoods on the Cowley Road. There are farmers' markets in east Oxford, Headington, Wolvercote and central Oxford, and several organic veg box schemes cover the city.
You can buy Fair Trade items including cakes and tea bags (440 bags for £8.99 - at around 2p/bag; possibly cheaper than Tesco and definitely better for everyone concerned) at Oxfam on Broad Street and Cowley Road. A broader range of gift items and household goods can be found in the Fair Trade shop beneath St Michael at the Northgate Church on Cornmarket. If it's chocolate you're after, you may be interested to know that ALL of the Co-Op supermarket's own-brand chocolate is Fairly Traded.
Other options for ethical food-buying/eating/etc include Scoop Zero Waste Pop-up, where you can buy dry goods without the accompanying plastic waste. East Oxford Farmers' Market has a SESI refill station, where you can top up your whole foods and household detergents. SESI also now have a pop-up shop at Flo’s, The Place in the Park, every Wednesday and Saturday, while Waitrose in Botley is trialling a much-needed plastic-free system for their fresh fruit and veg. There's also Good Food Oxford, a scheme designed to eliminate food waste and promote a healthy, fair, ethical and environmentally sustainable food system in and around Oxford.
Our page on Pick Your Own farms in the Oxford area can be found here. They tend not to be very organic but our proprietor holds that it's the only way to get properly fresh sweetcorn.
For ethical clothing, try Fairtrade at St Michaels or Indigo on Cowley Road, which has a wide range of clothing from guaranteed non-exploitative sources. Indigo also has a selection of home furnishings and accessories, so you can style your house as well as yourself. You can also have a look in our Charity Shops and Vintage section - you'll be contributing to a good cause, and you'll also be able to get unique outfits that you'd never find in the high street.
There are several ethically-themed places to eat around Oxford. If you fancy a tea or coffee, head along to Yellow Submarine, which gives work experience to people with learning difficulties, or Restore, which helps and employs people with mental health problems. The Crisis Skylight Cafe at the Old Fire Station does a great all-day breakfast, and all profits go towards supporting the Crisis homeless charity.
Oxford isn't a car-friendly city, so you already have an incentive to choose a more ethical method of travel! Cycling is one of the most popular ways to get around Oxford, and has the benefits of being cheap, quick and healthy as well as good for the environment. There's a strong cycling community in Oxford - head along to The Handle Bar or Broken Spoke, or get in touch with Cyclox, to find some bike-loving buddies. You can also make use of the various new bike apps that have popped up around the city.
If cycling isn't your thing, Oxford has an extensive public transport network - there are train and bus links to places outside Oxford, and buses that will take you all around the city. These can sometimes fall victim to the same problems as cars (travelling across Oxford in rush hour is often a slow process no matter what kind of vehicle you're using), but they are generally regular, convenient and reliable. Oxford Bus Company's new Pick Me Up service, a sort of bus-taxi hybrid, is also available.
If you need to drive, why not try one of Oxford's car clubs? These offer access to cars without the financial hurdles of ownership, improving mobility across the community. They can also reduce congestion: each established UK car club vehicle replaces between 5 and 11 privately owned cars. See our Car Hire and Car Clubs page for details of the Oxford schemes. Electric cars are being greatly encouraged by Oxford City Council, and new car parks are including more and more charging points.
If you have time to walk, Oxford is a great city for pedestrians - the beautiful parks and architecture will give you plenty to look at on your journey. The Oxford Pedestrians Association is a local group working to make Oxford a better place for walkers.
Many jobs around the house and garden require tools that we don’t use all that often, which can generate unnecessary waste as well as being expensive. In Oxford, we’re very lucky to have the Library of Things from Share Oxford, a scheme that allows you to hire those one-off pieces of equipment, from power tools to camping gear, without the associated waste that comes with buying. Share Oxford also run a repair cafe where you can bring your broken electronics and skilled volunteers will look in to fixing them, so you can avoid chucking them away
One of the most ethical (and fun) ways to get fruit and vegetables is to grow your own! The carbon footprint will be miniscule, and the products will be much tastier than anything you can buy in a supermarket. Read Daily Info's allotment guide to find out more about Oxford's extensive allotment community. For extra sustainability points, try growing fruits and vegetables that are good for pollinators - you can find out which these are through our guide to making your garden animal-friendly
Fruits and vegetables aren't the only things you can raise at home - you can also get your own supply of eggs by rehoming battery hens (saving them from becoming the chicken flavouring in soup, pot noodles and crisps). Unsurprisingly, these birds tend to be great layers, and will live 4 or 5 years after rescue. They can also make great pets! Visit the fabulously comprehensive British Hen Welfare Trust website for full details.
Inside the house, you can cut down on chemicals and clean the old-fashioned way, and help the planet at the same time. Distilled vinegar is an amazing cleaning product. It's cheap , it's environmentally friendly (containing none of the nasty chemicals of conventional domestic cleaning products, which end up in our water supply and poison the fish) and it works like a charm. The most impressive thing you can do with it in a hard water area like Oxford is remove limescale. Boil it up with some lemons in a kettle to completely descale it; put it in a spray bottle and squirt it on your glass shower screen to remove all water marks; mix it up with baking soda to make a mean cream cleaner to shine up your chrome fixtures. This may sound a bit 1950s, but once you've tried it, you'll never reach for the Cillit Bang again (and your landlord won't take your deposit to pay a professional cleaner to get the scale off your taps). If you're not so keen on the smell of vinegar, you can buy eco-friendly cleaning products from Headington's FairTrade shop (they also do refills!)
What can you do to minimise your ecological footprint to a dainty size 3? Look to your energy use for starters. Good Energy is one site offering electricity on a 100% renewable basis. There's also Ecotricity, and newcomer Bulb (which is currently offering a £50 referral deal if you get a friend to join!).
The Energy Saving Trust can, as you might expect, tell you how to save energy. They also have a free, impartial energy saving advice line (0800 512 012), send out energy packs on request and can do short presentations for local community groups.
It's estimated that 30-50% of food produced globally is never eaten, representing around $1 trillion worth of waste. In Oxfordshire, this translates to a typical family spending £600-£800 a year on food that just gets chucked. So as well as shrinking your carbon footprint, reducing your food waste could save you around £70 a month!
A good place to start with reducing your food waste is of course planning and buying only what you need. Love Food Hate Waste has a comprehensive guide to 'compleating' - using all edible parts of your food. Did you know, for example, that broccoli stalks are perfectly edible? Finely chopped, they make a nutritious addition to stir frys. Check out their amazing recipe bank!
Smart menu planning goes hand-in-hand with buying seasonal, locally-produced ingredients. Consider subscribing to Cultivate, who deliver a fresh box of Oxfordshire-grown organic fruit and veg to your home each week.
Of course, the ups and downs of life can make it difficult to plan all your meals meticulously, and we're all guilty of letting the occasional loaf of bread go mouldy. At the same time, we know that there are sadly growing numbers of people, including children, going hungry. Help prevent this injustice by donating your surplus food to a local food bank such as the Oxford Food Bank or a local Community Fridge - see Replenish Oxfordshire for details of your nearest one. Pressed for time? Download the OLIO app which makes it quick and easy to share food with your neighbours.
The bits of food that really can't be eaten (eggs shells, banana skins and chicken bones) can be composted. Oxfordshire Recycles has a guide to getting started with home composting. Alternatively, make sure to put food waste in your green caddy - the council will either compost it or turn it into energy.
Want to get involved with food waste reduction on a larger scale? Good Food Oxford is a network of local organisations established to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges posed by food. Projects under their umbrella are aimed at sustainable food production, redistribution of surplus and reducing food poverty and diet-related disease, as well as reducing food waste. They're good eggs all round!
BUT FIRST: Do you actually need to chuck it?
Share Oxford, a scheme dedicated to reducing waste, runs a repair café where you can bring your broken items to be repaired by skilled volunteers. You might find you don’t need to bin them after all! Share also run a Library of Things, allowing you to hire equipment you only need to use occasionally (from power tools to camping gear), helping you to avoid buying too much stuff in the first place. But if you really must get rid of it, read on!
Most of what you need to know about recycling household waste in Oxford (collection days, what to put in which bins, the location of nearby deposit banks for other stuff not collected from your door) can be found on Oxford City Council's Recycling Page. Their Recycling Directory lists items alphabetically, telling you what to do with them. If you want a pocket guide to local recycling points, get yourself a copy of our Oxford: By Day & By Night map. We have marked as many as we can.
Plastic Carrier Bags
Plastic bags can't be put in most normal recycling bins - but why would you want to? Now supermarkets charge 5p per bag, keep them and use them for future shopping. Be like your grandparents and keep a plastic bag full of other plastic bags in your kitchen drawer. If you really are desperate to get rid of them, check at your local supermarket, as they may recycle them - or take them to your nearest charity shop.
Fridges, rubble, you name it: if in doubt, take it to Oxford City Council's Recycling Centre, Redbridge, at the bottom of the Abingdon Road (01865 721464). Please note that if you are a business (ie. you arrive in a van), you will be charged. A very helpful chap has made a list of the various skips. Ace.
Giving it away for freeIs what you want to recycle not quite rubbish yet? It may be someone else's treasure! Here are some organisations that can find it a new home:
Daily Info's Free Stuff section. Post a free line ad here, specifying whether you can deliver or if it's collection only, and you may find someone who's looking for exactly the thing you can't wait to be rid of. You can also check our Wanted section to see if there's someone who needs that table, scrap wood or old pushchair that you want to give away.
OxfordFreegle (formerly Oxford Freecycle) is a Yahoo Group which enables unwanted items to be exchanged without financial transactions (or trips to the tip!). You can post 'Offered' or 'Wanted', and if you scroll through the pages, you'll find a treasure trove of goods.
Orinoco Scrapstore has been collecting paint, scrap materials and tools collected from businesses for years, with the added advantage of a small warehouse you can visit like a shop. They also have bring-and-swap days.
Emmaus Secondhand Superstore at 242 Barns Road, Cowley, Oxford OX4 3RQ (Mon - Sat 9.30am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm) collects re-usable furniture, electrical appliances and other household items, and then re-distributes them to people on benefits and low incomes. You can also buy from them (discounted if you’re on benefits, an OAP or a student, full price if you’re not). Call 01865 763698 or email [email protected] They will even come and collect large items in their van, but you have to book two or three weeks ahead. Items for Emmaus must be in a clean, tidy, reusable condition, and beds or sofas must have a fire retardant label. They also accept bedding, books and mobile phones.
PCs and laptops
Got an old unwanted PC? Safe PC Disposal, in Abingdon, collect redundant equipment for free and reuse it by repairing or refurbishing - or recycling if all else fails. Incredibly, they send nothing to landfill! They accept other IT-related and electrical equipment too. Call them on 01235 532730 or email [email protected]
If you have a lot of metal scrap, you may wish to visit the salvage yard on Jackdaw Lane (off Iffley Road opposite Bullingdon Road), who may buy from you.
Not-for-profit company Oxford Wood Recycling collects useable industrial waste timber and turns it into saleable firewood and wood for other home uses.
Amazingly, Oxford does take mobile phones for recycling - you can leave them on top of your bin in a carrier bag. If you'd rather not, ask your phone retailer if they're able to recycle it instead.
Reusing is even more useful in terms of energy/waste management than recycling. Click here for info on where to refill printer cartridges in Oxford.
Recycle clothes by shopping at vintage and charity shops (see our list of them, complete with synopses of what the charities do) with the added benefits of raising money for good causes and looking unique!
Oxford Brookes Environmental Information Exchange: 'a forum for the exchange of environmental information, primarily amongst small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Oxfordshire'.
Want to reduce waste in your community? Community Action Groups (5 in Oxford, 12 countywide) are volunteers who organise litter picks, swap shops (bring and takes), green shredding days and other events in their local area.
Low Carbon Hub: A social enterprise working on renewable energy.
Oxford City Amnesty International: Local branch of the international human rights organisation, focusing on global and local issues.
Oxford Conservation Volunteers: This group carries out practical conservation work every week, including activities such as bird hide maintenance and dry stone walling.
Oxford Friends of the Earth: A local branch of the eco-friendly organisation, campaigning on environmental issues and raising awareness.
Oxfordshire Mammal Group: This group run indoor and outdoor events, from talks to field surveys and the occasional round of badger-watching.
Wytham Woods: Wytham Woods has been a base for scientific research since 1942, and runs regular events on ecology, biology, zoology, and many of the other ologies.
Oxford Green Week: pop-up events across the city focusing on all aspects of eco-friendly living, every year in June.
Project Soup: a termly event where students use surplus food to create a big community meal, with donations towards the soup given to local charities.
Marmalade: A festival and series of workshops and meetings about social and environmental change, every March.
Oxford Fairtrade Fortnight: Running annually as part of the national Fairtrade Fortnight, Oxford events include workshops at the Botanic Gardens, food and drink tastings, film showings, talks, and more. Annually: usually in March
Oxford International Women's Festival: One of Oxford's longest-running events, Oxford International Women's Festival is now 30 years old, and focuses on a variety of issues thorugh a feminist lens, including austerity, community, the environment, and more.
The Daily Info staff have looked into the wider world of ecology and ethical living - here are our features on environmental issues, at home and abroad.
Save the Bees - our blog on local resources to make your garden more hospitable for these crucial pollinators
Overfishing - several useful posts on the dark side of the fishing industry.
Orangutans - how to help everyone's favourite ginger forest ape.
Make Your Garden Animal-Friendly - hints and tips to care for the wildlife in your garden.