Week 1 in My Plastic Free July Blog Series

I will admit it and raise my hand; I am nowhere near perfect in my use of one use items. So you can rest assured that the aim of this blog series isn’t to guilt trip anyone, myself included, about choices we make. I wanted a place I could record my journey of my #plasticfreejuly and provide potentially useful information in the process

Over the next few weeks I want to take a closer look at the way my family use and perceive items and to change single use for reusable where appropriate. The main aim, for me, is to use the month of July as an introspective challenge and I thought it’d be good to share my thoughts and findings with whoever would like to read it.

This one is quite a long read with lots of pictures and external links; so get comfy with a drink and lets get going.

“How can I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew but I did nothing”

David Attenborough

I have been concerned for quite some time with regards to what kind of world we are going to leave the future generations. These concerns have only grown since becoming a mother in 2017. I want my son, and in fact all children in the future, to breathe clean air, to swim in clean oceans and to have a sense of respect and guardianship for their environment. It’s our responsibility to demonstrate and teach more sustainable models of living for the future generations to emulate and build upon. They need to see their parents, teachers, friends and siblings stepping up and making positive changes. We have to be the change because no one else is going to be.

Contents: Quick links

This is going to be a long read, so if you don’t want to read all the way through (understandable) then use the links below to jump to a relevant section:

June Beachwatch Beach Clean

June ended for me with a beach clean set up by members of Suffolk County Council’s Vegan Network . It was part of the Beach cleaning and litter survey set up by the Marine Conservation Society and was supported by Sea Shepherd UK and their Marine Debris campaign.

beachclean
That’s me at the back; flipping the thumbs

The beach clean took place in 2 locations across Suffolk; Orwell Country Park and Southwold beach. The local news article is here. I was in the Southwold group and have just finished totalling up the results of our group’s surveys: Excel Doc – Beach Clean 2019 .

A total of 40kg of waste was intercepted by our 2 teams and was prevented from entering the ocean. Sadly, that’s the same amount of plastic found in a dead whale that washed up recently in the Philippines.

Participating in this beach clean really highlighted the issue of waste in our environment. I had picked it up with my own hands and seen it with my own eyes; there was no more ignoring it.

Wednesday Zero / Low Waste Shopping Finds

I took Wednesday off to spend with one of my really close friends Sadie.

We were sitting eating breakfast at Isaacs on the Waterfront, and a group of school children passed us, reusable bottles in hand. Most of the group had refillable bottles, with only a few having single use bottles. This filled me with a small spark of hope.

We had a rough plan to buy a few things we needed and mooch around some shops. Surprisingly I started to find zero/ low waste items in the shops we visited, so I did what I do best and started to catalogue it all:

Rockafella Industries – Eagle Street, Ipswich

There was so much cool stuff in this shop, literally like walking into my mind. It had a selection of clothes, accessories and home wares. The most impressive bits were the peg bags, overnight bags and small storage baskets made from recycled rice bags. The colourful pom poms made from recycled plastic bags were pretty awesome too.

Miss Quirky Kicks – Eagle Street, Ipswich

Natural colouring pencils

There were lots of patches, crystals, essential oils and tonnes of other stuff here. £3 for a bunch of pencils like this is good, I think.

We have to be the change because no one else is going to be.

Various locations, Ipswich

Working clockwise:

  • Pic 1: Travel bamboo coffee cup – Cats Protection
  • Pic 2: Selection of zero waste items – Zest / St Elizabeth hospice
    • Bamboo toothbrushes, nail varnish remover pads, reusable cleaning pads, vegan wax food wraps, soaps with no plastic wrap and paper cotton buds.
  • Pic 3: Bamboo washable kitchen towels – Wilko
  • Pic 4: Botanical mouthwash – £7 for mouthwash! in a glass bottle though… – TKMaxx
  • Pic 5: Handsoap Ingredients: Mixed locations
    • Refillable soap dispenser – TK Maxx
    • Castille soap – The Health Store
    • Tea Tree Oil and Almond Oil – Savers
  • Pic 6 – Pic of all items – Mixed locations
    • Bicarbonate of soda, almond oil & teatree oil – Savers
    • Castille soap – The health Store
    • Bamboo toothbrushes and some degradable bin bags – The Fairtrade Shop

Thursday: DIYing Liquid Soaps

This is something that has annoyed me for a good few years now. Buying hand soap knowing that we will have to chuck the packaging away afterwards. Unfortunately bar soap is out of the question for us as Mr Gruff doesn’t like the idea of germs from sharing a bar of soap, and I can see where he is coming from with this. Also I think Little One will destroy it given half a chance.

I’ve wanted to make liquid hand soap for a while but I’ve lacked confidence and thought something would go wrong. But I researched, found a good recipe and I tried it. That’s right; Wednesday I sourced the ingredients from town and Thursday evening, after work, I decided to make a few things.

I’ll save the recipes and links until next week because this post is already reaching an epic length. I’ll just tease you with a few pictures instead:

These products have been brilliant to use but I’ll write about them in Week 2, after we’ve used them for a good few days.

Thoughts from Week 1

  • Packaging
    • We have been thinking more about what we are buying. If I need something then I have tried to source it with the least packaging I can.
    • I’ve been asking myself “Is there a way we can reuse the packaging?”
  • Shopping– We’ve taken less trips to the supermarket this week and have tried to use up everything we can before going shopping again. As a result we have:
    • purchased less plastic packaged food than a usual week
    • been more frugal with our meals
    • been more mindful of our portions and ingredients used
    • created less emissions (less travelling to shops)
  • Reuse what you have – You don’t have to buy new items or a new container to store your snacks in; why not use the small jam jar that was just finished.
  • A lot more walking to find products – I walked a lot round town to get the products that I needed. I did about 10K steps over the time I was in town and was walking around for about 3-4 hours. This was exhausting, time consuming but also really fun. Mainly I was walking about trying to find Castile soap and eventually found some after visiting the 4th shop for it.
  • More time & energy used – I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that searching for products and ingredients required more time and energy than usual. I’m hoping this will change as I get used to where I can buy items.
  • Savings – Because I bought items locally I saved on delivery costs, emissions and I had the items immediately.
  • Greenwashing – I saw a lot of high costs applied to simple items that had with the word ‘eco’ or similar terms on. For instance a bamboo reusable coffee cup was £2.99 in one shop and £8.99 in another.

Looking Forward: Week 2

Along with what I get up to and any issues we face, in week 2 I’ll be taking a look and discussing the following:

  • Reusable bathroom items: safety razors and cotton shower scrunchies
  • Making your own hand soap
  • Our Plastic feedback

Have you got any goals or things that you’d like to look in to over the next few weeks? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Thanks
Vee 🙂

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Week 2: Shower Thoughts, Soap, Safety Razors and Shopping Bags

Picture of low waste shopping in reusable produce bags

Thanks for joining me on my 2nd week of #plasticfreejuly. In my previous blog post here I talk about my main aims and what I want to get out of this month.

Already, the waste my family and I generate is at the forefront of my mind and it has sparked a lot of other avenues of thought in the process, which I’ll go into under the ‘Thoughts‘ section below.

Quick Links

It’s a long read, so feel free to click on a link below to jump to a particular section:


Bathroom

It’s tempting to buy reactively and purchase goods once something has run out. The only problem with buying reactively,, without planning, is that you put pressure on yourself to purchase that item either immediately or in the near future. For our family this means that going to the supermarket and picking up the usual item which is convenient. However, with a bit of forethought and initial research and planning, maybe a new routine could be created.

There are a few things in the bathroom that you can swap for reusable items. Finding the items that you like are maybe going to be trial and error but i hope I can make this a little easier for you. The items below are just a few ideas of the many changes that you could apply to your bathroom products and routine.

Safety Razor; Mutiny Shaving

mutiny reusable safety razor

I think one of my favourite and best purchases in the last few years would be my safety razor. I purchased it last October at the Ipswich Vegan Fayre from Mutiny Shaving.

My thoughts on the razor:

  • I find it easy to use (I initially Googled it to see the best way to use it)
  • It’s always sharp
  • It’s really easy to replace the blades
  • It’s really easy to keep clean and rust free (I’ve had it since October last year and no rust yet)
  • There’s no plastic packaging with it
  • The handle has a really useful grip (grips are essential to stop the razor slipping while shaving)
  • It’s easy to dispose of old blades (put them into an old tin can and place in normal recycling)

I have since purchased replacement blades in Tesco, too. (If you’re looking for them, they’re in the ‘men’s’ section; I guess women don’t have any need for razor blades.) The downside is the plastic packaging and the little plastic storage box that they come in.

The benefit of this razor is that once it’s purchased, the only additional payments are for a cheap pack of razor blades as and when needed. So I think it works out cheaper in the long run and better for the environment. What’s not to love?

Crocheted Cotton / Bamboo Shower Pouf

My Ma’s crocheted cotton shower pouf

If you know the basics of crochet, then you’ll be making shower poufs in no time. My ma has just made a few from cotton thread and they look amazing and feel really luxurious.

I am going to attempt making one, and if that goes well then I’ll make a few more. Because they’ll be made from either cotton or bamboo, their drying time will be different from netted plastic ones, so I want to have at least 2 to be able to rotate them and wash them often.

You can make them:

Youtube video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ms8JRpk6Tc

Pattern: https://www.thestitchinmommy.com/2015/02/puffy-bath-pouf-free-pattern.html

Or you could buy them: Etsy Listing

Hair Care

  • Lush bars
  • Jess makes lovely soap over at the Guilt Free Soapery. Her soap can be used as a shampoo
  • ACV conditioner

Soaps and Hand Soaps

  • DIY handsoaps & Facewash (have a look at my recipes here)
  • Jess’s soap from the Guilt Free Soapery
  • If you have any bar soaps, you can melt them and make them into liquid soap and reuse soap containers in the process.
    In our house it’s easier to have liquid soap so Little One doesn’t destroy the bar soap. Also husband Gruff prefers liquid soap for hygiene reasons, and I agree with him, though I am not completely against using bar soaps. I made liquid soap this afternoon using this method from a naked Faith of Nature bar I’d picked up from Rainbow Apothecary last year.

Food Shopping with Reusable Produce Bags

We went to Tesco for our weekly shopping trip last Sunday and tried to apply the #plasticfreejuly mindset as much as possible. This is what I wrote just after the shopping trip:

Veggio reusable produce bags

We managed to buy carrots, broc and mushrooms loose and put them in our Veggio bags (reusable produce bags).

The tomatoes came in plastic trays with non-recyclable film and both the lettuce and kale came in plastic bags. I decanted the kale before I went to the checkout but kept the packet, barcode up, in the drawstring bag. After the checkout I decanted the lettuce into the kale bag and the tomatoes in with the carrots.

I went for Hellman’s vegan mayo, as it is in a glass jar, instead of Tesco’s own that is in a horrible thin plastic bottle. Downside was that it was 65p more.

We also needed some teabags, so I went for some plastic free Clipper teabags.

Our Plastic Feedback

I ended up giving the packaging back to customer services. The plastic waste was:

  • The bags from the kale and lettuce.
  • The tubs and plastic film lids from the tomatoes.
  • The plastic wrap for 2 packs of juice cartons

It was met with a “thank you”, then a “we’ll recycle this for you”. Yeah; sure you will love.

Unavoidable Plastic Packaging

The few bits of plastic waste that i gave back


On my shopping trip, I did purchase a few items that I’m not sure I could remove the packaging from;

  • Dishwasher salt
  • Rice (dried)
  • Laundry detergent

I mean, I probably could have decanted the rice into a bag, but I didn’t want to spill it and I wasn’t sure whether the grains would escape the bag.

This time I purchased Ecover laundry detergent but once it runs out I think I’ll go along to our local refill station and refill it. The price is actually better from the refill station for 1.5L.


Mindful Shopping


Looking for items in the least amount of packaging was a really interesting exercise because it forced me to look at different products. I also found that I bought more realistic amounts of things so for instance; instead of a big bag of carrots, I bought about 6. The mushrooms were a good amount too and they filled an old (small) punnet when I got back home.

I had the benefit of being toddler free on this shopping trip, so I had some more time on my hands to take my time and make informed choices. Now I’ve done it, my next shopping trip (which most likely won’t be toddler free) will hopefully be a more streamline and quicker affair.

Future Shopping Trips

On my searching around the internet, I found this website zero waste near me. It shows you on a map where your nearest zero waste options are.

I’m so excited to be able to say that our first order with Cupboard Love has just been placed. This means I’ve been able to purchase the following items completely plastic wrapping free, not to mention at decent, competitive prices too:

Mixed nuts, 200g £2.50
Apple rings 250g £2.50
Goji berries 125g £2.35
Toilet roll £1.00
Denttabs – Toothpaste Tablets (with fluoride) x60 1£2.50
Turmeric 25g £0.60
Noodles 2 blocks £1.00
Long grain brown rice 250g £0.57

Total £13.02
Shipping £3.50
Total £16.52

I’m happy with that price and I’m happy with the feeling that we are both supporting a local business and that there will be no single use wrapping in this order. Also, the it’s being delivered to my work which will save me a trip to the supermarket. I just have to remember not to buy anything on this list before it’s delivered on Wednesday.


Things to Note

Tesco’s wall of reusables.
  • Nestlé launched a new snack bar in recyclable packaging. They are mostly vegan flavours with the exception of the banana and pecan and dark choc and sea salt. Shame,because that last flavour sounds immense.
  • TK Max and Tesco have a massive wall of reusable cups
  • I went to London on Thursday and bought lunch in a local Tesco. Unfortunately the items I bought had plastic in them. To me, this was unavoidable waste as I needed to eat.

Thoughts

My thoughts have extended to the root cause of waste in our household which is organisation. In my experience, the more organised your space, the more aware you are of what you have. As a result you are less likely to buy items that you don’t need which saves on packaging.

  • Conscious consumerism: On week 2 of #plasticfreejuly , I am thinking beyond plastic and looking at what waste we generate as a family and whether any of it can be repurposed.
  • Over this past week I have been really asking myself ‘do I need this’ before I purchase it. I’ve been listening to a great podcast by Mama Minimalist which covers a lot of topics with a focus on living more sustainably. It’s a good listen and really informative; give it a listen if you have a free moment or, like me, as you’re doing the washing up.
  • Purchasing items gives you a feeling of power and ownership, but by practising the KonMari method you have almost an identical feeling of ownership of your space. This then extends to wanting to keep your space clear and not introducing new items into your space when they’re not needed.
  • To get more into the mindset of #plasticfreejuly, I have tried to watch some documentaries where I can. One of which is Plastic Fights Back that I review here.
  • It’s never been more apparent to me that what my husband and I do are demonstrating to our son how to conduct himself and navigate the world. It makes me stupidly happy now when Little One spills something and he heads to our reusable wipes drawer. After he’s used the cloth he then puts it into the wet bag instead of the bin. Hopefully this will be his normal.

DIY Handsoap & Facewash

items to make handsoap
Collection of items to make the hand soap and facial cleanser

While doing #plasticfreejuly I wanted to see if I could reduce our consumption of plastic in our house. I did some research about Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap and decided to try out making some soaps to replace our usual shop bought ones.

Dr Bronner’s soap is a surfactant and is not anti-bacterial. However, I’ve fallen down the the internet rabbit hole searching for whether antibacterial soap is actually necessary. I had a look at this article on anti-bacterial soap and this article on soap.

Something that might have more clout is the UK Government’s 5 year plan to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance that’s worth a read if you want some bedtime reading. The focus is on healthcare and medications, but humans as a group are a contributing factor to antimicrobials entering the environment, as demonstrated in this infographic. It’s scary to think that what we wash down our sink must have an impact on the environment on a microbial level.

“Reducing the unintentional exposure of people, animals and environments to antiinfectives (including cleaning products such as antibacterial sprays), antimicrobials and drug-resistant organisms… is important in reducing the risk of AMR developing and spreading”.

Tackling antimicrobial resistance 2019–2024

Handsoap

handmade hand soap
  • 85ml Castile Soap
  • 1 Tbsp liquid Coconut Oil / Almond Oil
  • 8 drops Tea Tree Oil
  • 250 ml water (either filtered or boiled then cooled)

Add the soap then the oil, followed by the essential oil and then top up with water.

**I purchased the soap dispenser from TKMax for about £3. I had to go for a non-breakable dispenser due to having Little One around.


Facewash

  • 80ml Castile Soap
  • 6 Drops Lavender Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Almond / liquid Coconut Oil
  • 360ml water (either filtered or boiled and cooled)

Add the soap then the oil, followed by the essential oil and then top up with water.


What Did We Think?

We loved using these products. The handsoap made our hands feel clean and soft; we both have a tendency fr dry, sensitive skin but our hands have felt lovely and not dry at all using this soap.

The facial wash is equally as good. Husband Gruff even commented that that the essential oils makes him think of using the proucts at our local Spa.

I think that’s important that when we use products they make us happy and the essential oils in these products made us feel relaxed as well as the products themselves cleaning well.

Watched Today: BBC’s ‘Plastic Fights Back’

Screen Shot of the BBC Short

“We’ve kind of been demonised as producers of this poison that’s killing the country”

Plastico worker, Plastic Fights Back, 2019

This 5 minute BBC short, presented by Lucy Siegle, is available on BBC iPlayer. I found It both interesting and perplexing; like people are just blindly pissing into the wind and not worried about any splash-back. Strange analogy, I know, but stick with me.

The short opens by talking about how this family run business, Plastico, have been making plastic products for over 70 years. This may be me just being pedantic but I don’t like the emotive undertone which is basically ‘this is an old British company, we’ve always done it so why is there a problem now’. That attitude, in my opinion, is both outdated and unacceptable given the waste epidemic that the World is facing. Not just the UK, but the World.

“I don’t think it’s the enemy, I think it’s the way that certain people misuse it”

Plastico worker, Plastic Fights Back, 2019

Has no-one who works there heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? or the fact that recent study confirmed that plastic pollution has increased since the 1990s. Ok, I’ll try to stifle any frustration and get back on topic.

When asked about concerns of producing single use plastic cups, the worker being interviewed states that the cups are used for many events, that the reason the products are used are because they are “absolutely fit for purpose” and they “do not present any danger to any member of the public”.

I’d like to just pause here and take a look at his answers to Lucy’s initial question.

  • His first response, and reason given, for not having concerns about producing plastic cups, is that they are used at ‘many, many events’. Oh, well that’s OK then; clear up, let’s all go home. I don’t think it’s an acceptable response that an item is used a lot and so cannot cause or raise concerns.
  • His second response that the cups are that they are “absolutely fit for purpose”, which I agree with. Though I think the issue is that they are a bit too fit for purpose and won’t ultimately degrade in a way that won’t harm our planet.
  • His third point in this response was that the plastic cups do not prevent any danger to the public. And my response to this is no; not currently, directly or immediately.
    • What about dangers to marine life as the items eventually degrade somewhere and find their way into the watercourse and eventually our oceans? This is will ultimately effect human beings in a negative way.
    • Also, the fact that plastic isn’t a danger to people isn’t the issue; it’s the bigger issue of it breaking down in the environment and being dangerous for marine life, birds and wildlife that is the issue.

They then go on to speak about their closed loop programme, which is the UKs first closed loop programme. It’s great that, as producers, they are thinking about collecting and clearing their waste after the product has left their factory. However, if my understanding of it is correct, this loop is reliant on the consumer putting the used product in the correct bin/place to be collected. I see this as a weakness in the chain and potential to loose out on some products being recycled.

I have my doubts and questions about the closed loop scheme :

  • Do Plastico just use recycled, closed loop, plastic?
  • If Plastico do use new plastic then they are still feeding into the plastic industry and driving demand for plastic to be manufactured.
  • Are there a certain amount of times that these plastic cups can be recycled back into cups before it starts to degrade? I imagine that the plastic will eventually start to degrade in some way and break down, creating the dangerous microplastics that everyone has heard about.
  • Would it be better, or indeed possible, to use a substance that would break down into a non-harmful substance in the environment? I’m thinking of the research around cornstarch and seaweed products recently.

“These people all work for an industry that almost overnight has become socially unacceptable “

Lucy Siegle, Plastic Fights Back, 2019

I don’t think that plastics are a stand alone issue when considering pollution. Pollution is such a broad term and encompasses a lot of factors and issues to consider; from the amount of waste generated and that is building up to emissions, food waste and much more.

I agree with the initial quote that plastics have been demonised, but do you think that this is for good reason?


Links used throughout:

Plastic Free Present Wrapping

Anyone who knows me personally will know that I can’t let a perfectly lovely piece of wrapping paper go to waste.

Our good friend had a birthday and to wrap her items I used some beautiful paper that had wrapped my own birthday gift. I’d been carefully saving it for this purpose.

There was no tape used, just string from my stash of gift wrap.

I posted an article back in 2017 about printing your own wrapping paper that might interest you.

Present wrapping hasn’t got to be expensive and it’s ok to use pre-loved wrapping paper or even material. Perhaps you could just wrap the ift with a ribbon for the ultimate in ‘less is more’

Kale, Banana & Oat Milk Breakfast Smoothie

On Monday I woke with a pounding headache and had to call in sick for work. Uncharacteristically I didn’t feel hungry ( I am always hungry!). I knew I should eat something but I couldn’t stomach my usual toast.

I knew I had a box of kale that needed to be used up this week and some bananas that were going bad on the side. A quick Google of a ‘smoothie with kale and banana’ bought me to this one: Banana and Kale smoothie recipe.

Benefits of this breakfast smoothie:

  • Simple to make (chop, blend, pour then drink). Literally; that’s it
  • Old bananas destined for the bin got used up instead of getting chucked away.
  • Kale is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium.
  • Banana is a good source of potassium and vitamin B6.
  • Provided an exciting change to my usual toast or overnight oats

I’m feeling rather smug after making this because I was able to use up ingredients that may have gone to waste, instead of using Items I had with a longer shelf life, like my bread. I know I would never have eaten the bananas because they were past their best, in my opinion. But once peeled they looked fine inside.

Moral of the story? Don’t judge a banana by it’s skin

Creamy-Cheezy Cauliflower Soup

I have had this massive head of cauliflower sitting in my fridge for just over a week and it’s been staring at me whenever I go in there. I bought it because I wanted to use and eat it but had no dish in mind at the time.

Fast forward to a cold, gusty Sunday and I was so ready to use that cauliflower. I wanted something to warm us all up so Cauliflower soup seemed the best idea.

IMG_20190127_125513.jpg

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