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?

Image result for christmas wrapping paper waste

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!

IMG_6923

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.

IMG_6445.JPG

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.

Related image

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.