10 ways to kick-start your Plastic Free July (and the next steps I’m taking in mine)

One month. No (single-use) plastic. Can you do it?

Honestly, I’m a little nervous.

Mostly because I currently eat a lot of Quorn and most of it involves plastic packaging, so finding veggie alternatives is going to mean getting creative or upping my fish intake from my current reduced rate of twice per week. Let’s not forget that in order to take part in #PlasticFreeJuly you don’t have to give up plastic completely, you can simply make more of an effort to swap the biggies and go from there. The only reason I’m taking the mega plunge is because as some of you will have read in my previous posts, I’ve already been making lots of sustainable swaps over the past 7 or 8 months so this feels like the next natural step (or rather, quantum leap).

I’d like to address both sides of the coin in this post; firstly, the top 10 changes you can make if you’re a beginner on this journey (warning: these have been mentioned in previous posts) and secondly, the next changes I, myself, will be making. *Gulp*

Top 10 sustainable swaps to start you off:

  1. Bags for life
  2. Groceries
  3. Straws
  4. Water bottle & coffee cup(s)
  5. Cutlery
  6. Toothbrush & toothpaste
  7. Shampoo & shower products
  8. Washing up
  9. Laundry
  10. Cleaning products

1. Bags for life

First of all, use these over their single-use counterparts. Second of all, remember them!

We all do it, head into the shop just for ‘a couple of bits and bobs’ and either forget to take a big enough bag in with us or pack everything in nicely, get home, unpack and leave the bag for life in the house. We’ve all been there.

Next time, leave them somewhere you can’t forget like hanging on the front door or on the coat rack as you walk out. What I do is have several dotted all over the place; one or two in each handbag just in case and you’re sure to be covered 9 times out of 10. The ones that fold away nice and small are perfect for this (my favourite pictured above) and some can even be looped around or clipped onto the outside of a bag rather than shoved to the bottom of it.

2. Groceries

Produce, bread, meat and fish are the simplest areas to reduce your single-use plastic consumption in when grocery shopping. In terms of supermarkets, look out for the ones with tongs and brown bags with plastic insert in the bakery section and simply take your own cotton or clean bag for loose bread instead. For supermarket loose produce, head to the larger stores as these tend to have a wider variety but be warned, they’re usually more expensive compared to markets and greengrocers. Most meat and fish counters nowadays will allow you to take your own lunchbox to them so where possible buy these things fresh rather than packaged.

Alternatively (and preferably, where possible), support local businesses instead and seek out farmers markets, butchers, fishmongers and bakeries who are often more likely to be on board. (I like to do this as a Saturday morning activity but appreciate that doesn’t work for everyone).

3. Straws

You must have heard enough about this in the news already but in case you weren’t aware, straws are one of the most common litter items found on beach cleans and incredibly harmful to marine life, often becoming lodged in the noses of turtles and the stomachs of penguins with potentially fatal consequences. Worse still, eventually they can break down into micro or nano-plastics which are absorbed and eaten by fish and sea life, poisoning the animals and/or making their way back to seafood eaters like myself.

Refuse straws altogether or purchase your own metal or bamboo ones, but remember to make the refusal clear when ordering a drink to avoid assumptions and slip-ups.

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My straws in Nest 23, Cardiff

4. Water bottles and coffee cups

In my opinion these reusables are some of the easiest changes to make but the problem many people face is remembering to wash them up between uses, so do this during the day in your workplace if you can or I recommend having more than one and keeping them in different locations. One in the car, one in your bag and you’ll never be caught short. Just don’t forget to put them back once clean!

5. Cutlery

Although some plastic cutlery can be recycled and wooden ones composted, reduce comes before recycle and therefore it’s much better if you have your own in the first place. You can’t go wrong with a trusty spork in my opinion (mine pictured above) but there are also several cute sets you can get online which are perfect on-the-go size, available from many places such as Joseph Joseph or Surfers Against Sewage & Save Some Green.

6. Toothbrush and toothpaste

Toothbrushes are another of the most common litter items found on litter picks and it’s something that perhaps wouldn’t have crossed your mind before. Rather than throwing away old plastic ones, they can be kept for cleaning those hard-to-reach areas in bathrooms and kitchens but when buying new opt for a bamboo toothbrush which can be dissembled and composted afterwards – mine is from Save Some Green. If you really can’t go without, compromise with an electric brush with changeable heads (dispose of these responsibly in the bin not the toilet) which is at least a reduction in waste and can be used for years if cared for properly.

Toothpaste can be made yourself if you’re feeling creative or purchased online and in some zero waste shops in glass jars rather than plastic tubes. Finding the right one for you takes trial and error and does come at a premium price but every little helps and it should last longer.

7. Shampoo & shower products

There are now growing numbers of shampoo and conditioner bars available if you search online but I get mine from Lush, who also do ‘naked’ shower gels which are cruelty and plastic free as well as many, many of their bathroom and beauty products (all are cruelty free). This is another one I’ve actually found super easy because these do seem to last a lot longer than bottled products and they’re so much more convenient for travelling.
Loofas, natural sponges and even crochet pouches for soap (in place of shower gel) are all also available online from several sources such as Cardiff-based Tabitha Eve Co, who I’m a big fan of if you hadn’t guessed already. [The below image is taken from my ‘Less Plastic’ Instagram highlights]

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8. Washing up:

Ecover are a great brand for being more eco-minded* as their bottles are made from already recycled plastic and can be recycled again, as well as having refill stations dotted about the country (the closest to Cardiff is in Penarth). Alternatively, zero waste shops like Natural Weigh often have washing up liquid as one of their products so take a large container (I use an old 4 pint milk bottle), fill your boots and decant into a pump or squeezy bottle as and when required.

9. Laundry:

The same goes as above in terms of refills but you can also use soap nuts or purchase an Ecoegg like myself which has refillable pellets and lasts for months in-between. It doesn’t leave as strong a scent on the laundry but if I need an extra cleaning boost I dissolve some bicarb of soda in some water, add 10 or so drops of lavender oil for scent and add that in as well which does the trick.

10. Cleaning products:

Ecover* also do a variety of household cleaning products but to be honest, bicarb of soda and white vinegar does a fantastic job on nearly everything. I made my own anti-bacterial spray for surfaces (pictured above) and there are so many sources online for DIY cleaning products, go ahead and get creative!

And there you have it, your 10 tips for starting out on a single-use plastic free journey! It doesn’t just have to be for July 🙂

*EDIT: I just discovered that Ecover and Method are now owned by SC Johnson who do not make any attempt to hide the fact that they do test on animals… Maybe don’t go for these after all.*

So, what are my next steps?

Throughout my ‘Saying Goodbye to Single-use plastic’ series I’ve worked through these initial 10, some of which take more time and effort than others but it’s all worthwhile in the end. The way I see it, implementing these plastic free alternatives is like joining the gym or starting a new regime; initially it feels like a lot of extra effort but with time you begin to see the benefits and it just becomes habit.

Loo roll

If you search around a bit there are a few alternatives to your regular toilet paper online but before committing to anything make sure it’s biodegradable. Otherwise, it should not be going down the toilet and will contribute to those grim but very real fatbergs we’ve seen on the telly. Anything that isn’t toilet roll or bodily excretions should not be flushed, regardless of whether it’s labelled ‘flushable’ or not. Just wanted to get that out there…

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I’ve chosen to try out this Who Gives a Crap? toilet roll which is made from recycled paper, not virgin like most other loo rolls, wraps all its rolls in recyclable paper and also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need with fab charities like WaterAid. How cool is that?!

There’s a variety of other products available on their website as well as information about deliveries and a detailed FAQ page, but the initial price sounds quite steep at £24 for 24 rolls or £36 for 48. You do, however, get discount for buying multiple boxes so some communities club together to do this and although many sustainable swaps are initially more expensive than their wasteful counterparts, they are usually designed to last longer and so provide much better value for money. Consider how long a box of 48 toilet rolls will last and how many trees are saved in the process – is it really that much? Divided up it actually works out cheaper than some of the leading brands and isn’t tested on animals in the process, which is what we like to hear.

Tea bags

I have some loose leaf tea at home but my work stash of teabags has run low for some time now. This weekend it’s one of my missions to get some plastic-free tea bags from Pukka Herbs or Aldi’s Specially Selected range to keep me going (brands stated in a previous post to be plastic free).

Avoid all single-use packaging when shopping

This is what will potentially be the most difficult because even though the majority of my groceries are loose produce, rice and pasta or tinned beans etc. there’s the odd thing that catches you out such as yoghurt, ice cream (I say odd, I buy it most weeks…), salad especially is pretty impossible in the UK. Where can one find a loose lettuce?! If you find one in Cardiff please let me know because I’ve been fancying getting creative with some summer salads but this has been a barrier.

The up side of these is that many of these you can make yourself – nut milk is apparently relatively easy to make although I’ve not tried it yet; I know of a few places in Cardiff I can get dairy milk in glass bottles and got my first one just this evening (from Nisa in Splott); in place of ice cream I could make my own ‘nice cream’ with frozen bananas or there are plenty of recipes online. Anyone lucky enough to have a garden or allotment could also grow their own salad and spinach. Sadly, I don’t fit the latter category so this is something I really look forward to in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future! Donations from existing local gardens or allotments welcome…

Laundry, continued…

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By this I mean that I’ve gone one step further than just using cruelty and single-use plastic free laundry powder, I’ve ordered a Guppyfriend washing bag and I cannot wait! (Pictured, source: their website). This awesome little contraption is made of specially designed micro-filter mesh that catches the fibres from your synthetic clothes which ordinarily get washed out in the effluent and cannot be separated at wastewater treatment works, inevitably ending up in the environment. You simply put synthetics in the Guppyfriend, wash as usual, then scoop out the fibres and dispose of them properly – much like cleaning the lint filter on a tumble dryer. It also serves as a frequent reminder to work towards more sustainable shopping habits, which can’t be a bad thing. Keep an eye on my Instagram for updates 😉

Crisps and chocolate

I am a snacker. I’ll be honest. I’ve found a recipe or two for DIY crisps online which I trust are relatively easy but are undoubtedly considerably more effort than shop-bought; for the sake of the experiment I’ll give them a go though because the way I’ve always seen it is that the environment is more important than I! Chocolate is a tricky one in itself and is likely to be one thing I can’t avoid if I’m totally honest, I’m addicted, but snack bars can be made at home relatively easily if you’ve got a bit of time and enough will power to make them last the week. Looks like I’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen!

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My first glass milk bottle in Cardiff

I am conscious this post has gone on for a while so I’ll round it off here but I hope it’s been useful to all of you reading, whatever your current plastic situation! Any suggestions or questions please do get in touch, or if you do take some of my advice I’d love to hear from you!
There’s loads of info available on the Marine Conservation Society website as well as a nifty little book called ‘How To Live Plastic Free’ on its way to me in the post; I’ll be keeping my Instagram as up to date as possible too. Best of luck with your plastic free journeys! 🙂

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Header image taken from the MCS plastic challenge webpage.

Saying goodbye to single use plastic: part 5

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about plastic as I’ve been waiting to accumulate some more ‘sustainable swaps’ to write about. The truth is many of the previously discussed initial lifestyle changes one can make, such as seeking out loose fruit & veg, always carrying a reusable coffee cup, bags for life and straws, swapping to a bamboo toothbrush and even reusing old spray bottles to make homemade cleaners rather than buying new, have all pretty much become habit for me now. Whilst it’s become a bit of a light-hearted joke around the office, that doesn’t change the fact that more people need to be making these alterations to continue to encourage wider change – which so far, thankfully, seems to be working as my friends and family begin to make their own small changes! The more the merrier though as the saying goes.

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A reminder to always pack your eco essentials 🙂

If you’re unsure where to start or simply ‘haven’t gotten around to it yet’, head back to my first post of the series for some inspiration and dare yourself to read many of the current news articles about why reducing single-use plastic is so important. Yes, we’re never going to see huge changes overnight but the planet was here before us and will be here long after us and, in my view, is far more important than our lives will ever be. It is our home at the end of the day.

“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”

Source: IEMA

I still have plenty left to change; try as I might, I still can’t buy unpackaged like Quorn, yoghurt or milk. I’ve looked into using a milkman but I don’t think will work for us at the moment as we don’t have a porch or tucked away doorstep, so that’s one for next time. Fortunately, a large proportion of plastic milk cartons in the UK are made from already recycled plastic so don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re in this same situation or haven’t yet made the milkman switch. Some things have changed since my last post though, so what’s new?

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Plastic-free shopping

This isn’t as easy as I’m sure many of us would like and the truth is that we do need to, as consumers, use our purchasing power and vote with our wallets where we can to show companies that we care about this stuff. I do realise though that this isn’t possible for everyone and that buying loose, free-range, high welfare and organic isn’t perhaps a luxury everyone can afford, so do work within your means. These are the ways I’ve been trying to make my shopping as plastic-free as practically possible:

  • Loose fruit & veg – I’ve touched on this before but if you can seek out a greengrocers or farmers market it honestly isn’t as ridiculously pricey as the supermarkets make it
  • Tins – beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn etc; tins can be washed out and put in the recycling bin
  • Milk – as mentioned, most plastic milk bottles are made from recycled plastic already and can be recycled again, but there are glass options growing in popularity now
  • Yoghurt – I tend to buy large pots of Skyr/natural yoghurt and keep them to use for other things or refill at zero waste shops like Natural Weigh or the soon-to-come Ripple in Cardiff
  • Meat/fish – ask your fishmonger/butcher if you can use your own container, Asda, Cardiff Market and now Morrisons do this and I’ve had success with Sainsbury’s once but am unsure if this is a company-wide thing
  • Seek out zero waste shopping opportunities – e.g. Lidl; you can buy nuts loose and bread if you want to, just let the shop know that you’re using your own containers

Hygiene products; panty liners

I was about to write *WARNING: taboo content* and apologise to any male readers but

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then thought better of it. Periods should not be taboo and it’s absolutely ridiculous that one feels the need to introduce a warning before discussing something so common to half of the population. ‘uhnonee‘ previously The Tiny Tank has a brilliant talk about this on her podcast ‘Adulting’, which I absolutely love and strongly recommend, and this article from The Guardian is also highly relevant.

As long as I can remember I have worn a pant liner every single day, sometimes changing it to a second new one throughout the day and it became obvious to me that this was something I was over-looking in my plastic and waste reduction journey.
What were the alternatives? First of all, don’t wear one at all. Whilst this may seem the most obvious option, I find it uncomfortable and habit is a funny thing. So whilst searching online as I often do to read up on other zero wasters’ journeys and recommendations, I came across washable cloth panty liners as a thing and was intrigued.

These tend to be handmade from natural fabrics, mostly cotton but sometimes also bamboo, made to the shape and size of regular pant liners you can buy in the shops. Manufactured liners have a sticky side to attach it to your underwear which is plastic-based in addition to the plastic fibres infusing the pad itself. Cloth liners have wings with little poppers on instead which are visible when undressed but help keep it tucked into the pants, though you may need to put it back into position every time you go to the loo as they can slide around a bit.

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How do you wash them? Are they sanitary? The simple answer is that you can rinse them in warm water or give a little scrub pre-wash if you like, but otherwise they just go in with your normal washing on 30 degrees and bob’s your uncle. I honestly love mine; in the weeks awaiting their delivery (they were made to order from Etsy) I made sure to try and use up every last shop-bought liner I could find lying around in handbags, pockets, make-up bags etc. and they arrived in the nick of time. I actually wouldn’t go back now! As with many other eco-friendly alternatives (cloth nappies, period pants, menstrual cups etc.) the cost is higher than your regular shop-bought, but over time it’ll cost you and the environment a lot less.

Mine are made from brushed cotton and are so comfortable and natural to wear that I’ve asked my mother to have a crack at making me some more to add to my current 6, which I wash and rotate religiously as obviously it’s not a whole week’s worth. I really would recommend making this switch if liners are something you use a lot, or even just to have handy at that all important time of the month. You can find a variety of sizes online (I reckon 6″ is about the same size as ‘regular’) as well as many tailored to actual period/sanitary pad purposes, though the thought can seem a little daunting. Just something to think about – it’s an insane amount of waste when you add it up!

I’ve also invested in a menstrual cup from Cardiff-based TOTM, but am yet to use it so will share my thoughts another time.

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Natural deodorant

This is one that’s taken some trial and error, as does toothpaste but I’ll come back to that later. Lush do several different types of natural deodorant, including both a bar you buy in a block and this funky-looking powder that a friend of mine says is miracle stuff. I recently tested out the bar for size and had high hopes, but I have to be honest I couldn’t stick it out for more than a few weeks.

The first thing when it comes to natural deodorant – you have to accept that you will sweat. It’s not anti-perspirant; sweat is inevitable. Once you’re over this you can crack on trying out what works for you. I started using the deodorant bar from Lush a week or so before my holiday in April in order to get the hang of it, then continued to use it for some of the holiday. The problem I faced with it was BO I wasn’t accustomed to, nor did I particularly want to get accustomed to. Like I said, you will still sweat, but it was the residual odour of that sweat that didn’t work for me. This is a very individual thing so that’s not to say it wouldn’t work for others, everyone is different.

The one pictured that I’m currently using I bought on my last visit to Natural Weigh and I have to say, this one I’ve loved and intend to buy again. It acts like a roll on where you have to push up from the bottom to bring the deodorant to the top, rather like twisting a lipstick, then simply apply to the necessary area, let it dry and off you go. It’s from Kutis, the lavender and bergamot flavour, and I think that’s what makes the difference for me – essential oils are a wonderful thing and fantastic for a whole host of plastic-free alternatives. Plus, they smell good!

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Two of my plastic-free lunchboxes – cute and not too pricey!

Lunch boxes

You may have seen on my Instagram a while back that I got really excited about finding some plastic-free lunchboxes in TK Maxx. Whilst it’s totally okay to have plastic lunchboxes because they aren’t single-use and you can keep old yoghurt or ice cream tubs etc., it’s particularly nice to find other alternatives out there that aren’t as fragile as glass can be. I’ve so far bought two bamboo lunch boxes, a set of three bamboo boxes with clip lids (for fridge/cupboard storage) and a lunchbox made from rice husks. Absolutely no complaints, they’re fab. Just be careful because many aren’t water-tight.

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Toothpaste

As I said, this is another tricky one. I first tried a small pot of Truthpaste, peppermint and wintergreen flavour, and whilst to begin with I found it gross (the boyfriend couldn’t stand it) I got used to it after a while and it wasn’t so bad. It’s not the minty fresh feeling nor the frothing up you get in a regular toothpaste, but it’s not tested on animals either so it depends on your priorities. Once this ran out I dived in for a bigger pot from Natural Weigh which is Georganics, peppermint flavour, and this has sat on the side pretty much ever since. If I thought the first one was bad, this one actually tastes like a foot. So I’m yet to find one I love but perhaps will get another pot of the Truthpaste… be warned though: it’s one of those eco swaps that is sadly a hell of a lot more expensive than its plastic tubed counterpart.

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Wax wraps and cotton produce bags

I recently expanded my collection of beeswax wraps and I use them loads to be honest, I really do recommend these for anyone looking to make the first few steps toward a more plastic-free lifestyle. A friend just got me for my birthday one with a stretchy bit specifically to go over bowls, how cool?!

Cotton produce bags are also something I’ve begun using recently because not only can you take them shopping with you as they weigh next to nothing, but also helps you keep things organised at home. I started off with three and have now expanded, all from Tabitha Eve Co, recently labelling my most used ones for convenience which I actually think looks kinda snazzy!

So there you have it. If you’ve read all of the posts in this series so far you should have a pretty good idea of what you can do to reduce your own plastic use by now! But it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect; unfortunately there are still too many occasions where I’ve had to find compromise such as buying reduced food to save it from waste, which seems pretty ridiculous to me that one can’t often do both. Every little thing does help though, especially if others are encouraged to join in too.
Please take the opportunity today, World Environment Day 2018, to make a small change and stick to it #PledgeLessPlastic – you can find all kinds of info and make your pledge on the IEMA website here.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic Part 4: Natural Weigh, zero waste shop

The ‘Blue Planet Effect’ is spreading far and fast it seems (yippee!) and the latest thing to pop up on my eco-radar has been Wales’ first zero waste shop – if you haven’t been yet, I urge you to give it a go. Natural Weigh is based up in Crickhowell where several pubs and restaurants have already taken the no straw stand and turned to a life with less plastic, making it a lovely little day trip or Saturday afternoon out if you’re taking the hour’s drive out of Cardiff.

The first thing to come to the minds of many of you, I’m sure; “is an hour’s drive really that eco-friendly?” Well, it depends how you use it. Ideally, if you take orders from various friends or family, or better still take them along with you and car share as I did with my boyfriend’s mum on my latest trip, then you’d be making the most of the journey and that’s what I would recommend where possible.

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What’s in this shop? All kinds! From dried fruit, nuts, pasta, rice, pulses, cereal and even cacao nibs and cocoa sweets; full details are on their website and there’s new products being added all the time, all organic as much as possible. Something I didn’t get on my first trip but stocked up on last weekend was washing up liquid; I’ve been looking into cruelty-free and more eco-friendly washing up options for a while now, you may have seen me talk about my none sponges, coconut hair scrubber and attempts at making my own washing up liquid in previous posts during my plastic series. The homemade washing up liquid didn’t quite make the grade for me sadly, so my other plan of action was to buy one of the large 5 litre bottles of Ecover washing up liquid and keep a normal-sized squeezy bottle to decant into, still involving plastic but less so than buying lots of individual bottles (and Ecover’s bottles are made from already recycled plastics AND can be recycled again). Upon realising that washing up liquid was available in Natural Weigh, however, I kept aside a large 4 pint milk bottle and an empty squeezy bottle once finished and filled up on my last trip. No purchasing of new plastic required. Perfect. (I’m yet to put it to the test in action so will keep you posted).

Recently added products include: natural deodorant, natural toothpaste (both of which I’ve bought and are just getting used to so will report back in another post), shampoo bars and a range of products from the fabulous Tabitha Eve Co. from whom I’ve purchased several items, including her best-selling none sponges, and which I’ve already raved about in my previous post! I really recommend browsing her Etsy for the full range of handmade products.

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How does the shop work? My mother asked me. This is also detailed on their website but essentially, you save up your own containers be it pre-used plastic, glass jars, old yoghurt pots, or something I’ve been doing (which I feel is a small stroke of genius, if I do say so myself); taking my empty sea salt & pepper grinders – you know, those ones with the glass base and a plastic grinding top – and just refilling straight into those. At this point I feel it necessary to add that one of my favourite things about this zero waste shopping experience is that it’s so much easier to put everything away once you get home, no faffing around unwrapping anything or decanting and spilling all over the place such as with packaged rice, pasta or condiments.

Back to the containers: you take your own containers to the shop or purchase some of their own glass jars on arrival, weigh the container empty and print a barcode for it, fill the container, scan the empty barcode and re-weigh et voila! You simply pay by weight, as the name suggests.

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What’s the advantage of this? Well you’d hope that would be obvious; the lack of unnecessary packaging not only saves on plastic, which would likely otherwise end up in landfill, rivers, oceans and eventually our food & water supplies; but also lends a much more convenient approach to shopping in many ways as just mentioned. By using your own containers or purchasing containers you can use time and time again you can ensure you’re buying only as much as you want or need, rather than being forced into purchasing more than you bargained for and potentially leading to wastage. On the flip side, if you’d rather buy things in bulk to last you a good while (which is what I tend to do) then you’re also at complete liberty to do so – your container size is your own choice.

IMG_7396Natural Weigh estimate that so far in their 8 or so weeks of being open for business, they’ve saved around 8 million tons of plastic and 2,761 pieces of single-use plastic from ending up in the oceans or going to waste. That’s fantastic! Imagine if this caught on in every town in the country; the impact could be phenomenal!

Isn’t it more expensive though? That entirely depends on what you buy and how much. As I have discovered for myself, some items are more costly than others such as loose leaf tea, nuts and organic cocoa products. However, the weight you buy is entirely up to you and don’t make my usual mistake in thinking you have fill every container if you don’t want to or are trying to stick to budget. Owners Robin and Chloe will also happily scan your stuff to give you a running total if you ask nicely ☺

As an example, below is my first shop at Natural Weigh and the total was around £20 give or take a few. Here we have: white basmati rice, spaghetti, wholewheat penne pasta, red lentils, oats, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, banana chips, bran flakes, sea salt & chocolate ginger.

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My first zero waste haul

Have you been to a zero waste shop before? What was your favourite part about the experience? I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, I absolutely loved it and hope they catch on all over the place. Just last week in fact it was announced that Cardiff will be getting its own zero waste shop this summer, but as I said Natural Weigh is great way to spend an afternoon if you catch lunch in one of Crickhowell’s pubs as well. Great people working hard for a great cause, they deserve all the support and I hope it continues to spread the word as it has done so far!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Fighting plastic pollution: The No Straw Stand

Following on from my current Saying Goodbye to Single-use plastic series, I return once again to the straw issue. The No Straw Stand has been setup by Cardiff uni students Nia and Douglas who are trying to make Cardiff a straw-free city. They’ve an ever-growing list of businesses taking the no straw stand and have recently received support from Keep Wales Tidy – which just goes to show that small changes can lead to progress! There’s still a way to go sadly, but I thought I’d compile some of my favourite businesses already happily associated with the No Straw Stand, which I recommend trying if you haven’t already:

Blanche Bakery

I finally took myself to try out their offerings recently and was very pleasantly impressed; their donuts are their major selling point and I can 100% see why. They taste incredible, you’d never even know that they’re vegan, full of flavour and very satisfying. Much like The Moos on nearby Whitchurch Road, Blanche Bakery are totally vegan; so whether you’re after something a bit different, want to mix up your diet or try something new, or simply go somewhere you can indulge without having to check the ingredients, this is certainly somewhere to visit.

It’s small and cosy, but this also means it was lovely and warm on an otherwise very cold day. I opted for the French toast donut (definitely stole the show), the ‘chick’n mayo’ sandwich and a hot chocolate. The sandwich was tasty and filling but I’m not sure the texture was the one for me, still felt kind of meaty which I’m sure is fab if you are or were at one point a meat-eater but just not quite right for me. The hot chocolate was very well presented and tasted good, but to be honest I did miss the milk – which is something I thought I’d never say because I’m not even a big fan of milk. I couldn’t tell you which kind of vegan milk was used, however, so maybe it’s different with different types? I can’t be sure, but they also have a good tea selection so next time I’ll go for that. Either way, definitely try the donuts and go for the chill atmosphere of the place, I loved it and will be back again soon to try more.

 

 

The Grazing Shed have also taken to supplying biodegradable straws according to the No Straw Stand. I’ve written about them before in my Glastonbury highlights; often regarded as the best burgers in Cardiff it was nice to have a sense of ‘home from home’ whilst away festival-ing. Not so long ago I found myself there again and was particularly impressed with their efforts to cater to my awkward requests, it really made my evening! [The awkwardness was that their chips are all skin-on and I have the weirdest allergy in the world and can’t digest potato skin. Bummer, I know. Instead though, they were happy to substitute me another patty in my usual Naughty Shephard which was thoroughly enjoyed and very much appreciated.] If you haven’t tried The Grazing Shed yet, you really are missing out.

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Source: Pieminister Instagram

Pieminister is somewhere I’ve always been a big fan of – who doesn’t love pie & mash?! (Un)fortunately, we’re so spoilt for choice in Cardiff that I’m always keen to try new img_7026places so these guys have become rather a rare treat for me somehow. They’ve been phasing out their straw stocks for a while now, only supplying them on customer request, but since they officially went plastic straw free a month or so ago I decided it was high-time for another visit. In this case, they visited me via the magic of Deliveroo; I went for my usual Heidi pie but this time added cheesy mash (is there anything better than cheesy mash? Seriously?!), gravy and a side of mac ‘n’ cheese, just because. It was bloody delicious and all packaged in cardboard containers marked as recyclable (though they did appear to have a coating on the inside similar to coffee cups and ice cream pints…), which was a real bonus*. Great job team!

*This links in with an email I received from Deliveroo just a few nights ago, stating that they’re investing in the manufacture and production of more recyclable and/or biodegradable containers for transporting hot foods via their service, in order to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. They’ve also supplied some of their businesses with trial biodegradable straws and are introducing an ‘opt-in cutlery’ scheme to encourage wider adoption of these eco-friendly alternatives. Brilliant news!

 

 

Juno Lounge, one of my long standing favourite places, have taken to only using compostable straws which I’m thrilled about! You can read my full review of Juno here, it’s one for a cosy comfort meal for sure.

 

 

Wahaca has always been one of my favourite places to eat in Cardiff because I love their policy on sustainability, food waste and the fact that their fish is clearly stated as MSC certified. These guys have always been against straws (but recently made it official) for any of their soft drinks or delicious cocktails and I’ve been too many times to list, however the things I always go from their street food menu are the plantain tacos (I almost always have plantain on a menu if it’s available) and the cod tacos. Bloody lovely. Their sweet potato & feta taquitos go down a real treat too – I’m hungry just thinking about it. If you like Mexican, give Wahaca a go.

Penylan Pantry – you may have seen these guys before on my list of Top 5 Cardiff Breakfast spots and I still stand by that. I love everything about the inside of the Pantry and intend to visit again very soon, but as well as their delicious & freshly made food, their sustainability and environmental awareness is a big bonus factor for me [see Hungry City Hippy’s post for more] and I really do hope more businesses take these things on board. Go, see for yourself; you won’t regret it.

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Milk & Sugar/Llaeth & Siwgr I’ve also mentioned before in my Top 5 Cardiff breakfasts and they remain very much one of my favourite go-to places in town. I’ve not yet had a disappointing meal from them in the Old Library and I happily go there time and time again. It’s great for people watching if you get a window spot, it’s a lovely big space (also available for functions, parties and sometimes kitchen takeovers) and there’s something on the food or drinks menu to suit everyone. They have also taken the No Straw Stand so next time you’re in town, stop by and give Milk & Sugar a try – trust me.

 

Lastly, Lilo’s Pasta is relatively new to the Cardiff scene but started off in nearby Pencoed where owners Liam and Chloe spotted a gap in the market and, after Chloe living on pasta for most of her second year of university and playing around with tasty variations, dived in full-force after graduating. They now have two trucks for festivals and weddings (you may have seen them at Cowbridge Food Festival last year or Depot from time to time), two successful cafes and have been really focusing on moving towards a plastic-free environment. As a new business, Chloe has taken the opportunity to make ‘sustainable swaps’ wherever possible, such as storing their ingredients in big glass jars and ordering their signature coffee in brown paper packaging, whilst ensuring that whatever packaging they do use is either fully recyclable or compostable such as the takeaway boxes. Straws are a work-in-progress but their plastic ones are only available on request currently and a more eco-friendly option available as soon as possible.

Their pasta itself is proper, convenient comfort food for a very reasonable price and with plenty of options to choose from (including vegan & veggie options), as well as regularly changing specials – like this one pictured which was their duck special not so long ago [source: instagram]. Your waistline needn’t take a hit either, swapping regular pasta for courgetti if you wish or even adding protein to any smoothie or milkshake. They’ve also begun offering Oatly as a vegan milk replacement in their hot drinks at no extra cost and if you take your own coffee cup or food container you’ll get 20p off your order. Great job guys!

One interesting thing that came up in conversation was that in their store it may seem like recycling isn’t been followed through as there aren’t separate bins, however when the waste collector was asked about this it was assured that the recycling is separated at the plant later on. I really hope this is the case for many other businesses because I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of assuming that no separate bins meant no recycling! Moreover, Chloe told me that she’s even been asking their supplier to cut down on packaging when goods are delivered where possible, such as not double-wrapping salami etc. This, my friends, demonstrates that if we, the consumer, put the pressure on the businesses to adapt and change, then businesses apply this same pressure to their suppliers, meaningful change can begin to happen and across a wider board. Fingers crossed, eh? It’s all about spreading the word!

 

 

So, if you haven’t taken the No Straw Stand yet, why not check out some articles online or refer back to part 1 of my plastic series. If you have, but your favourite restaurant or pub hasn’t, why not ask them about it? I’ve been surprised to have received some bemused looks when requesting no straw in my milkshake or cocktail recently, which just goes to show that the message still needs to be spread further and wider to get everyone on board. So grab your bamboo straw (or metal, but bamboo is more sustainable & eco-friendly truth be told) and get the message out there!

You can get bamboo straws from Save Some Green or Tabitha Eve Co when she’s next at Cardiff Market.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 3

We’ve now had more than enough of 2018 to ‘get back into the swing of things’ and try get our heads around whatever resolutions we made for ourselves (is it really Spring already?). Hopefully, if you’ve been interested in reading this series, reducing your plastic consumption has been one of those resolutions – refer back to parts 1 and 2 for more context – and hopefully some of the little tips and tricks I’ve been sharing in my journey have helped some of you do this. Small changes really do have an impact when everyone gets involved! So, what’s new since last time?

Laundry (the bane of my adult existence)

I finally ran out of the laundry tablets I’d been using and decided to search for an eco-friendly alternative. I was sent this very useful video a few weeks ago and was tempted to make some of the laundry tablets on there, however I hadn’t realised I’d run out until going for the empty box in the cupboard (doh!) and so had to act quickly. Luckily, next day delivery is a thing and I was intrigued having read about Ecoegg from fellow Cardiff bloggers The CSI Girls and heard about it from a work friend, so I bought myself one online and it arrived the next day. So far I have absolutely no complaints!

IMG_7375The egg itself is, to be fair, made from recyclable rubber and plastic but the key selling point is that it’s not single-use and comes full of refillable pellets so that once you have an egg, all you need to do is replace the pellets to use time and time again! These pellets biodegrade throughout your washes, coming in a variety of scents (I ordered lavender to begin with but may mix it up next time) and your first full egg is claimed to last around 54 washes – you get a little tick list to keep track if you like.

Additionally, the company are UK based, UK made, cruelty-free, vegan friendly and package the product in cardboard making it fully recyclable. I’ve been really conscious over the past year or so to start phasing out anything not cruelty-free in our house, starting with makeup, so this was a major selling point for me too because you’d be surprised how many household things are tested on animals (this, like the plastic, is a gradual process of adaptation and a learning curve). I must note that on this occasion I was also very impressed with the minimalist brown paper envelope it was delivered in, later recycled. The only possible criticism is that the scent of the Ecoegg pellets isn’t as strong as some of the popular laundry detergents, but to be honest this doesn’t bother me as long as the clothes are clean!

Sustainable cinema – is it a thing yet?

IMG_7376 (1)Something else I wanted to talk about, although it may seem more of an occasional thing rather than an everyday lifestyle change, is that I’ve recently been trying to apply the reusable coffee cup principle to my cinema outings. Several years ago when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I fell for the marketing strategy and bought one of the limited edition decorated drinks cups from the cinema. I had since kept it lying around as a keepsake until we went to go and see the latest film, The Last Jedi, when it dawned on me that surely if I took this drinks cup to the cinema it could be refilled same as a reusable coffee cup would in a café? The answer, sadly, has been somewhat unclear.

First time around, the poor guy did look a little confused when it wasn’t one of the more recent ones they had on sale at that time, but didn’t hesitate to fill it up once I’d explained it was already mine from years ago. Second time, the server seemed unsure what size drink it represented so insisted on pouring out a usual, plastic cup and tipping it into my reusable one and yes, this does defeat the point. Third time (was not lucky), I was flat-out told that it would not be refilled and that if I wanted to use it I’d have to tip from a normal plastic cup myself. On this same occasion, my own bamboo coffee cup lovingly featured in my first post (which was refilled without any hesitation – why the difference?!) went missing after the film so, all in all, I feel a bit defeated by this sustainable cinema quest! I’ve raised the issue with Cineworld via twitter where all of these attempts took place but so far haven’t had a clear answer. I will continue to be a pain in the arse and take my cup with me, however, so this line of enquiry is to be continued…

Cuppa, anyone?

In other news, as you may have seen it turns out that a lot of teabags are actually sealed with plastic. Slightly heart-breaking, I know. The good news, however, is that the Loose Leaf pyramid teabags from Twinings are plastic-free and fully biodegradable, or there’s always the option of loose leaf tea and a cute little strainer, such these I picked up in Madrid IMG_7308last weekend and now keep in my desk at the office (pictured right).

Moreover, this is something you could buy in bulk similar to pasta, rice, coffee etc. at the new Natural Weigh store in Crickhowell which opened last weekend and which I am dying to try out! For the time being I’ve been using up the teabags I currently have – which are still recommended to be composted at home or in the food waste bin, despite the small amounts of plastic currently in most – but will thereafter be switching to more loose leaf and making sure to buy fully compostable or biodegradable* brands when necessary – here’s a list below:

  • PG Tips pyramid bags (recent change but should be on sale now, see article for more)
  • Twinings Loose Leaf pyramid tea bags (specifically these, the rest are not yet plastic-free)
  • Pukka Herbs – fully compostable
  • Teapigs – these are confusing; the tea bags are compostable but must be put in your food waste not home compost because they need to be broken down industrially. The plastic bag the tea bags are packaged in is, however, compostable at home
  • Aldi’s premium Specially Selected range
  • Waitrose’s Duchy range
  • Coop [coming soon] – their own-brand 99 teabags are set to become plastic-free by the end of the year

*I just learned there’s a difference between compostable and biodegradable; call me foolish but my mind is now blown.

Zero Waste washing-up: Tabitha Eve Co.

I’m revisiting this subject from part 2 because as I feared, my microfibre cloths idea isn’t quite as plastic-free as I’d hoped. At the moment, I am still using them for cleaning and dusting until they get past their best, at which point I’ll invest in some reusable bamboo cloths or cotton muslins, but when I saw Tabitha Eve Co. at Cardiff’s Riverside Market I couldn’t resist her ‘none sponge’s!

IMG_7053This mum of two started by taking the no straw stand with her much-beloved cocktails, then began to wonder where else she could make a difference around the home. Debbie decided to begin working from her studio in Cardiff with the aim to provide beautiful, handmade zero waste products that can convert people to living more eco-friendly and plastic free ways and has only been trading since December of last year, so it was a real bonus that I was able to support a new, local business as well as get some great products!

The ‘none sponge’s are simply bamboo material and cotton sewn together carefully (sourced from the UK as much as possible but otherwise Debbie scours the ‘net for sustainable alternatives, such as hand woven organic cotton by a cooperative in Kerala), these resemble washing up sponges without the unnecessary plastic and work great. They can be cut up and composted once done with, though it’s worth noting that fabrics do take longer to decompose than food so should be tucked into the middle of an actual compost heap rather than the food waste bin [what can go in the food waste bin can be found here]. Composting is something I’ve been meaning to look into further so I’ll come back to this point another day, but for now I’ll be using my parents’ compost heap as and when I visit home.

The point is, you need to check out this lady’s products because they’re gorgeous, natural and plastic free. [Her etsy is here in case you don’t have chance to catch her at the market!] I’ve also started using the cotton produce bags to store my loose fruit & veg in the cupboards, as a means of keeping potatoes apart from onions etc. in line with Love Food Hate Waste’s recommendations.

Wrapping it up

One of my closest & dearest friends was kind enough to send me some beeswax wraps IMG_6969after reading this series so far (I know, she’s a keeper) and I’ve been avidly using them as much as possible as I’ve heard good things – they even came with a lovely little note from Beeswax Wraps UK. So far I’ve tested them out for wrapping sandwiches and covering bowls of leftover food, they’ve worked a treat! Much better than nasty old clingfilm; natural, reusable, available in lots of pretty patterns – I urge you to invest as soon as your last roll of clingfilm runs out. They can also be home composted once worn out or you can even have a go at making some yourself, either using online tips or one of Tabitha Eve Co’s special kits which were on sale at Cardiff Market.

And finally, two things I’ve found to be absolutely key in sticking with sustainable changes:

  1. Investing in or rediscovering an old, larger handbag or small backpack is a great way to ensure you remember all your eco bits when out and about. As long as it has room for a reusable coffee cup, your bamboo straws, bags for life, a Tupperware container for those leftover bits at the end of a meal (or even for fresh fish or meat you get at the market), a refillable water bottle and ideally some reusable cutlery, you’re good to go. I’m yet to make a cutlery pouch myself but I’ve been keeping an eye on Zero Waste Cardiff’s Instagram how-to and am definitely keen to try!
  2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It might at first feel like you’re being a pain in the arse, but if you don’t ask the awkward questions you’ll never get a straight answer. Ask for the straw to be left out of your drink. Ask if you can have your water bottle refilled (this is actually your legal right in most premises). Ask if you can have your fresh fish/meat in your own tupperware instead of wrapped in plastic bags*. And what’s more, the more people ask then the more this kind of movement will grow and opinions begin to change.
    *I’m told Cardiff Indoor Market have answered yes to this question, though if you can’t always make it local I asked Asda and was told it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you have the sticker to scan!
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My backpack/handbag with (almost) all my eco essentials 🙂

Change really is happening guys, especially with new drinking water fountain/refill plans and a potential plastic straw ban following Scotland’s success, so don’t be afraid to get involved…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 2

Although time has passed since the first post of this series, the pressing plastic problem has not changed. There have been some more highlights in the news, including the introduction of more freely available tap water throughout England to encourage water bottle refills and reduce purchases of single-use bottled water, as well as several other political promises made; but nothing legally binding yet. Blue Planet 2 did, however, receive an ‘Impact’ award at the National TV Awards which recognised the significant increase in environmental awareness both in the hearts of the nation and the Houses of Parliament, since its release. Carrying this impact with us, we press on in the quest to Say Goodbye to Single-use Plastic.

Although part 1 was published after Christmas, I didn’t want to overload it with too much info so in this part 2 I’ll talk about some of the things that helped make my Christmas a little more eco-friendly – although there’s still a long way to go. Following my 5 things to remember at Christmas post we were then lucky enough to receive a restaurant gift voucher from one of our family members which, in my opinion, is a perfect example of a thoughtful, zero waste present. What better time for a discounted date night than January in the post-Christmas blues?

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A shocking infographic showing the truth behind Christmas waste. Source: article by House Beautiful.

One thing that became apparent whilst opening presents was the sheer amount of waste that wrapping creates, considering that a lot of wrapping paper cannot be recycled as it’s reinforced with plastic and/or sprinkled with specs of glitter – side note: have you ever noticed that you use glitter once and then it never seems to go away? Yep, it’s a very harmful micro-plastic for that exact reason. Biodegradable glitter has in-fact been developed by ecoglitterfun but it will cost you a pretty penny so use it wisely (or avoid glitter altogether). I would say sorry to all the festival go-ers but I know that I was one IMG_4828myself this past year and I know for a fact that I wore glitter on my face at Glastonbury (pictured). This just goes to show, however, that these little changes do require time and effort but aren’t impossible. A group of Nurseries in the UK even banned glitter all together in their efforts to protect the environment, good job! Personally, the next time I go to some such festival I’ll factor in the extra money for eco-friendly glitter – or even chip in with a friend. I digress; the point is that looking at the huge pile of spent wrapping paper in front of us, my family and I agreed next year to abolish it and use newspaper, bags, tissue paper and string or even a nice fabric instead. Better still, focus more on intangible presents that don’t require wrapping.

As for eco-friendly presents, there were some handmade Welsh soaps wrapped in paper rather than plastic, several non-plastic kitchen bits including a bamboo chopping board, IMG_6930and a make-up removing cloth which, so far, has been my personal highlight and a real game-changer. My friend and I had this very conversation only a few months ago, wondering what we could do to eliminate the waste caused by our makeup wipes and cotton pads, yet here the answer was all along. There are a couple of different brands available now but mine is the Magnitone Wipeout and you literally just wet it with warm water and wipe (or rub) the make-up away (mine is very well used as you can see…) I was a little hesitant but it actually works a dream, even on thick eye makeup! I love it! Just goes in the wash with everything else when it needs a refresh.

Outside of Christmas, one of the things I wanted to talk about in this post is washing up. In the first post I talked about my coconut hair, biodegradable scourer and since then I’ve made a few other changes to my washing up routine – or, at least, tried. In terms of ditching the sponge, that I have done. I’ve employed the use of microfiber cloths I already had but wasn’t using, for washing up and general cleaning in place of sponges and kitchen roll (which, by the way, isn’t always recyclable so I’ve ditched that too. Same goes for tin foil.) This works really well and I can’t complain, although I am conscious that this may be a plastic fibre issue to tackle at some point down the line… let’s hope not.

As for washing up liquid, however, I was super keen to make my own after seeing several recipes online, as I talked about in part 1. When it came to it, sadly I’m not sure it made the cut (pictured above). In theory it’s a simple combination of soap, vinegar, water and some essential oils but in reality the lack of lather in comparison to the usual shop-bought washing up liquid made it hard to tell whether it was actually doing the job, and seeing my cutlery dry with soap spots was the final (non-plastic) straw for me. So unfortunately, we had to emergency swap back to normal for the time being, though we tried to pick one that’s supposed to last forever and ever until that annoying little kid on the advert wants to build his bloody toy rocket. At least he’s reusing.

Moving home recently was another opportunity to seek out eco-friendly/non-plastic alternatives to things normally bought for the house, such as making sure I bought a metal rack for the draining board (as oppose to the many plastic options out there) and hunting high and low for a suitable, sustainable foot stool (we are short people, we can’t reach the top cupboards). The perfect little footstool was finally found in TK Maxx – see photo below; I wanted a wooden one with character that we could keep forever and ever and, seeing as my boyfriend loves orcas, that’s exactly what I found!

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Our perfect, adorable orca stool 🙂

Time for another DIY project: homemade antibacterial spray. Antibac wipes are yes, very convenient but not only contain plastic fibres like many other types of wet/makeup wipe, they also get flushed down the toilet (for some reason completely unbeknown to me; they are NOT ‘flushable’, the packaging lies) and cause all kinds of drain blockages, bursts, contribute to littering and even help form ‘fatbergs’ as we’ve seen in the news IMG_6924because they do not decompose. Anyway, I kept aside a spray bottle of old antibac that would otherwise have been recycled and made up my concoction. This one works an absolute treat: water, white vinegar, lemon juice, lavender oil, tea tree oil. That’s all there was to it! Wine vinegar is a naturally brilliant cleaning agent especially for stainless steel and glass, whilst lavender and tea tree oils are naturally antibacterial and add a little extra scent to mask some of the vinegar. My boyfriend still thinks ours smells too vinegar-y, but it’s only when you’re actually spraying and wiping it down, once dry the odour doesn’t linger. Personally I’ve been loving using this spray and would recommend anyone to try it at home, it’s so simple and so effective! And amazing to know that you’re only using natural ingredients so there’s no itchy skin from chemicals afterwards (no nasty testing on animals either!).

There’s plenty more I could write here, but better save it for next time… The key points this time are:

  • Use up what you already have first to save waste, or perhaps even give it away
  • Dedicate a little time researching the best eco and plastic-free alternative (or, at least, single-use-plastic-free) and it will pay off
  • Take the opportunity to make a sustainable swap when it presents itself i.e. moving home or replacing something
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to others about this, not just friends & family but bars and restaurants. There are plenty out there looking to make a difference, which I’ll do a separate post about soon but The No Straw Stand is a good place to start.

If you’re still just starting out on your plastic-reduction journey, here’s an article from earthyandy on some small, simple steps to get going.

IMG_6876Also, update on the bamboo straw teething problems from last time: since making sure I always have one or two in my handbag it has become much easier to implement and I no longer fear making a fuss by asking specifically not to be given a straw with my drink. If I have more than one on me then usually a friend borrows one too, double-win. I recently got asked about them when putting my own straw in my drink at a bar, which just goes to show that interest can spread and there is hope for a Straw-Free Cardiff. More on this to come…

Do you have any advice on favourite eco-friendly products? Have you been trying to cut down on plastic and live more consciously too? Stay tuned for more next time! (And if you haven’t watched Blue Planet 2 yet, seriously what have you been doing?! Catch up here).

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: none of the links in this article are sponsored.

Source for Featured Image: Justin Hofman photography.

Saying goodbye to single-use plastic: Part 1

The plastic problem is all over the news at the moment. It’s been a problem for some time now, but thanks to our pal Sir Davey A and Blue Planet 2 it’s now being far more widely discussed and gaining some much-needed momentum. About bloody time. The problem is, it’s hard. There’s plastic in almost everything we use on a regular basis, it seems; so picking a time and place to start reducing your own plastic use can be tricky. Another thing is, a lot of people ask: why? What can one person do? (Same as the recycling argument which we have tried and still do try so hard to convey).

There was an article in The Guardian recently disclosing that a significant proportion of ocean plastic and waste (90%!) actually originates from just 10 river systems, all flowing through densely-populated areas of developing countries. This is a problem that unfortunately, we can’t fix alone. And without getting into complicated politics I don’t fully understand, I don’t honestly have the answers or solutions for that. But what we can change little by little is the pressure put on corporations and manufacturers by us, the consumer, to reduce over-packaging and invest in more sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives where possible.

This can be done in a number of ways such as making the effort to buy only loose produce rather than packaged, even if it means biting the bullet and paying a little more – although shopping locally is a great and often very reasonably priced way to do this. This goes too for buying fresh bread from a local bakery in a paper bag, which can be kept for storing your broccoli in the fridge (helps it last longer) or putting yourIMG_6702 sandwiches in for work – I’ve begun getting mine from Nata & Co. Butchers and fishmongers can be a little tricky as most of their packaging is plastic and/or non-recyclable, but if you’re supermarket shopping then making the effort to go to the fresh counter rather than buying it in air-sealed packaging is a positive step.

Critically, making sure to use your own reusable coffee cup instead of buying fresh non-recyclable ones every time (especially if you’re posting some sickening selfie or insta-story with it, just don’t), or stealing 10 minutes for yourself by sitting-in instead, is one small change that can have a big impact (as you may have seen in today’s news). Mine featured right is mostly bamboo from dotcomgiftshop but there are all kinds of options, such as those in this article.

As well as all this, I decided to kick-start my lifestyle changes by ordering a lovely little eco-package from UK-based Save Some Green which contained the following: 3 vegan, handmade castile soaps; 4 bamboo toothbrushes (which were on offer); 4 biodegradable scourers (made from coconut hair and non-stick pan friendly) and a set of 5 reusable bamboo straws.

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My eco-friendly purchases from Save Some Green. Also packaged all in recyclable brown paper!

Firstly, I’ll explain the straws. You may have already seen people talking about this online but straws are actually a huge offender for plastic waste and have been found to not only substantially litter beaches and oceans within a matter of hours, but can also become lodged in the nostrils of endangered sea turtles and pierce the stomachs of penguins. So, I took it upon myself to seek out reusable ones instead and these bamboo straws naturally came in a variety of sizes which has turned out to be pretty useful. I’ll be honest: I’ve loved them when I’ve used them and it has been nice to discuss them when people ask, however I’ll admit it’s been harder than I thought to make it a proper habit so far. Remembering to ask a bartender specifically not to give you a straw is one thing (weirdly, harder than I anticipated) but when someone else buys you a drink it can get trickier still. Maybe I’m over-trivialising this, but my point is that the straws haven’t been as easy to phase-in as I expected. Nonetheless, we persevere.

Secondly, the soap. When I was reading up on how to replace some of my household products with more eco-friendly, homemade alternatives, castile soap came up as a key constituent in homemade washing up liquid. Hence, ordering it serves a dual purpose for washing both hands and dishes. I am yet to make my own washing up liquid as I’ve not finished my pre-existing bottle (also one of the hardest parts about phasing-in ‘sustainable swaps’, you have to wait to bloody finish everything you currently have so as not to waste them unnecessarily) but I’ve purchased a glass container with pump and will be doing so very soon.

On a similar note, the scourers have proved themselves useful in getting greasy spots or burnt-on leftovers from baking trays and pans without affecting the precious non-stick. They are, however, quite sharp to the touch to begin with until softened with water and don’t work as a universal washing up tool as I’d originally intended. In place of a sponge, therefore, (now I’ve successfully knackered-out my pre-existing standard, plastic-based, non-recyclable one) I’ve begun to use a microfiber cloth I already had plenty of which not only does a stellar job but also dries quickly and can be washed & reused again and again. Brill.

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Discarded plastic toothbrushes as permanent litter. Source: Huffington Post.

The benefits of bamboo toothbrushes to the environment are significant in comparison to the plastic toothbrushes we’ve been brought up on which have a large carbon footprint to produce only to end up in landfill, in the oceans, or sometimes even in the stomachs of birds (follow this link for a great infographic). The ones I purchased from Save Some Green are fully biodegradable, vegan-friendly and can be ordered with varying bristle strengths depending on personal preference. The counter-argument is that huge companies like Oral B spend millions on complicated research to exact the science of brushing and dental hygiene, yet my question is how necessary is this really?

I personally don’t know the answer. But Noel Abdayem, a qualified dentist himself, asked the same question and thus founded the Humble Brush which also boasts a handle made from 100% biodegradable, sustainably-grown bamboo and puts a portion of all purchases towards funding oral health projects for children in need. It’s worth noting though that the bristles of these are not biodegradable like mine claims to be, only the handle. All I know is that my teeth are healthy as they are and besides a little gum soreness in the first few days of getting used to the new bristles (possibly bought the wrong strength), I’ve so far not had any significant issues so feel comfortable with this decision. I even gifted some of my other Save Some Green toothbrushes to family for Christmas to get them on-board, which they did so gladly ☺

Key lessons learned in this first leg of my journey:

  • There’s a plethora of eco-info available on the web and it’s been an absolute saviour. A Google search is all you need but some I’ve found really useful are Save Some Green, The Homemade Homemaker series on The Guardian’s website and several Zero Plastic blogs like this one and My Plastic Free Life.
  • Waiting for everything you currently use to run out is a pain in the arse, but worth itIt’s got to the point where every time we finish a shampoo or shower gel bottle in our house, we cheer with excitement because it’s one step closer! (Side note: we finally finished shampoo this week so I bought a LUSH shampoo bar; absolutely no regrets. I’m never going back.)
  • Discussing it with others is the best way to spread the word and get more people involved. Don’t be afraid to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and gently encourage close friends or family to do the same. (Gently. No-one likes a pusher.)
  • You can’t do everything. This is probably one of the hardest/most frustrating things, but going cold turkey with these things will just never work. In order to be sustainable, (any) lifestyle changes need to be brought into habit, so take it a step at a time. There’s no point throwing away all your perfectly decent tupperware, for example, just because it’s plastic when actually it’s not single-use (and is therefore less environmentally damaging) and serves a good purpose.

 

IMG_6187I do believe and hope that consumer pressure can be the kick that’s needed to implement changes on a much larger scale. The more people that deliberately reduce by buying loose veg and fresh bread over packaged, complain on twitter when they find something ridiculous (like this single aubergine I found in Aldi, for example. No need…), remember to reuse their own cups, containers etc. and recycle correctly – a topic I’ll talk more about another day – then companies will have to start listening to consumer behaviour and change accordingly.

That’s all for now folks. As I said, I’ll keep you posted on my plastic-reduction journey so will be making this into an intermittent series among the food stuff. Stay tuned for more! And if you’d like to share your own tips and sustainable swaps please do!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx*

Related image

Source: Blue Planet 2.

*This post was not sponsored by Save Some Green or any other links in this article.