DAYS 29&30 – SO LONG & THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH!

It’s the end of the month but not the end of saying no to single-use plastic. Even after the greasy doughnut Plastic Challenge disaster, I have no intentions of throwing in the towel and accepting all this needless, plastic over-packaging.

There are some things which have proved difficult or impossible to find without single-use plastic including medicine, dental floss, ground coffee, crisps and biscuits. But there have been plenty of easy swaps, such as buying fresh bread from the bakers, veg in paper bags from the grocer, organic oats in a paper packet from the supermarket and raisins from the bulk buy shop.

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They cost the same, so now I’m only buying plastic-free organic oats!

Realistically, a single-use plastic free life is hard to lead, but this month has opened my eyes to even more options: I like to think I was relatively eco-friendly in my shopping habits beforehand but this has made me think and look even harder than before.

There are things which I will, no doubt go back to: I admit I am looking forward to using conditioner on my hair. I found using egg so unpleasant that I didn’t repeat it and opted for frizz instead. But I do intend to purchase an un-packaged shampoo bar to replace my plastic bottle of organic shampoo and I will also research other home-made conditioner options.

All in all, I think a lot of good habits that have developed this month will stick. Yes, the supermarket is often more convenient, but using the high street shops is more sociable and gives you a certain feel-good factor about supporting local, independent shops. Oh, and the produce is often way nicer and not always more expensive.

I have been amazed that we have gone an entire month without crisps and biscuits (except the occasional home-made ones). It’s not been all that bad, honestly, but I imagine they will both creep back in to our lives. However, I will be searching out sources of gorgeous Italian paper-bagged biscotti in future.

I really believe that if enough people vote with their purses and also write to manufacturers, shops and councils, things can change for the better….although two nudging emails and three weeks later, I’ve still not heard a peep from my local council’s recycling team.

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Even recycling involves rather a lot of single-use plastic

Finally, there’s one plastic moan I haven’t covered yet: Dog poo bags. Yes, I realise many are degradable, but many are not. And why oh why do people insist on leaving them in hedges and hung on trees in some of the most beautiful places? I do expect dog owners to clean up dog mess, but this bizarre ritual of preserving it for decades is totally moronic on many levels.

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One of many dog poo bags in the hedge at our local, idyllic beach

On that unsavoury note, I’m off to read my book on Zero Waste living, and write my birthday wish list which so far consists of Kilner jars, a bee hotel and a food processor.

Many thanks to the Marine Conservation Society for creating the Plastic Challenge.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

DAYS 20 & 21 – SIX MORE EASY ECO-SWAPS

After writing about things we’re missing whilst on the no single-use plastic “diet”, it seems only right to share some more things which have been easy  to replace. I hope this might inspire you to make a few small changes too:

LOOSE VEGETABLES – Buy them loose instead of packaged, particularly as it usually works out cheaper. You can take your own re-usable mesh bags with you, or stick the fruit and veg straight into your basket. Oh yes, and I finally managed to buy strawberries without a plastic punnet from a local honesty stall!

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Hooray! Strawberries without plastic from a local stall

USE LIDS – Instead of cling film wrap for leftovers we tend to use takeaway and ice-cream tubs. Look out for the PP symbol or number 5 on the bottom to show they are “food safe”. I’d love to invest in some non-plastic alternatives eventually and I definitely need more Kilner jars in my life!

BICARB OF SODA  – It has a multitude of uses as toothpaste and shampoo, but my favourite is as a household cleaner  – it really is very effective. Simply sprinkle it on, rub with a damp cloth then rinse. It works brilliantly on both bathroom and kitchen sinks. You can buy it from bulk food shops using your own re-fillable container.

COCONUT OIL – It’s fantastic for cooking, as a moisturiser, in toothpaste and I’ve also been using it as make-up remover applied with rags cut from an old nightie to replace plastic-packaged cotton wool.

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Cut up old clothes to make useful rags

REFILL BOTTLES – Some brands such as Ecover are easy to refill. I know of three places within only a few miles who can refill Ecover washing up liquid and cleaning product bottles, so keep your eyes open! It’s also slightly cheaper than buying new.

COMPOSTABLE TOOTHBRUSHES – It’s easy to change your plastic toothbrush for a compostable bamboo version. They’re reasonably priced and better for the environment. You can also re-use your old toothbrush for cleaning awkward nooks and crannies around the house – just make sure everyone knows it’s no longer meant for oral hygiene!

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Swap your plastic toothbrush for a compostable one!

I hope these Easy Swaps have inspired you to choose less single-use plastic.

DAYS 16 & 17 – DON’T FLUSH!

The Marine Conservation Society have launched a new “Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush” campaign to encourage us all to think before we flush the loo.

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Image credit: Marine Conservation Society

Last year, around 50 wipes per kilometre were picked up during the Great British Beach Clean weekend, which is a 30% rise from the previous year and a whopping 400% increase in the last decade.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the Plastic Challenge? Well, I was surprised to find out that many wet wipes contain plastic fibres, and so by flushing them, those tiny bits of plastic end up in the food chain.

Also, around £88 million is being spent annually on sorting out sewer blockages caused by unflushables such as wet wipes, sanitary waste, fats and oils and the water companies will certainly be passing that cost straight on to us, the customer. So it’s bad for the environment and bad for your purse.

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Photo credit: Natasha Ewins

Personally, it has never occurred to me to flush anything but poo, wee and toilet tissue down the loo, but it’s obvious from beach cleans that people do regularly flush all kinds of stuff. So the message is simply – think before you flush!

Now we’re not just talking baby wipes here. Cleaning your face and house has been made quick and easy with wipes, and our disposable society has sucked them right up, often for good reason: convenience and worries about spreading illness.

In terms of baby wipes, I’ve always bought Jackson Reece Kinder by Nature which are available in most supermarkets and chemists. They’re biodegradable, compostable and don’t contain nasty chemicals like parabens and SLS, but that still doesn’t mean they are flushable (in fact they state “do not flush” on the packet). And if you’re thinking they must be super expensive too, you’re wrong; I have never paid more than £1.50/packet and sometimes only £1/packet because I buy them in bulk wherever there’s an offer on – sneaky huh! This makes them cheaper than many un-eco varieties.

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Even biodegradable & compostable wipes are not flushable!

But, even eco-friendly wet wipes come in a plastic packets. The only solution I have found for this is Terracycle who have a network of collectors for a variety of things including wet wipe packets, biscuit wrappers, spray bottle tops, pens and Ella’s baby food pouches. What can be recycled is often specific to the sponsors (ie. the big name manufacturers) but as well as providing recycling for items which would otherwise end up in landfill, the collectors can earn money for charity. Sadly, our local collector has recently stopped taking baby wipe wrappers although is still able to take household wipe wrappers (these rules are made up by the sponsors not her!)

The huge increase in wet wipes found on the beach is indicative of the fact they are such a handy, disposable product and, quite frankly, I have no idea how parents coped with poonami nappies before their invention. But there are great, reusable alternatives such as Cheeky Wipes.

Whilst, I think re-usable wipes are great for hands and faces, I’m less convinced about dealing with poo. The video demo makes it look easy (I am convinced they’re effective) but what do you do with your bag of poo-laden wipes? It’s suggested to wash them with anti-bacterial laundry wash, which is something I’m concerned about, as it will be flushing straight out into the aquatic ecosystem, and who knows what problems that will cause? Presumably, you’d also have to keep bottom and face wipes separate, and I can’t imagine nursery or grandma taking well all these extra instructions when they’re on childcare duty. Suddenly the extra washing, drying, sorting, soaking, explaining instructions, dealing with poo and anti bacterial wash seems an awful lot of hassle, and it’s understandable why most people opt for disposable wipes.

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Eco-friendly wipes and the most bio-degradable nappies I can find!

I decided at the start of the Plastic Challenge that it was my challenge rather than my toddler’s. I’d love him to be single-use-plastic free too (and he’s doing pretty well!) but there were a variety of reasons that I knew this would be near impossible; wet wipes being just one of them. Unless I made a huge investment (over £250) in re-usable nappies and all the associated paraphernalia (which I had previously discounted as an option) it would be virtually impossible to go entirely plastic-free in terms of the baby. However, we are using 77% biodegradable disposable nappies (the most biodegradable nappies available including their packaging), plus biodegradable & compostable wipes. The wet wipe packets and the plastic medicine bottle top have so far been the only real stumbling blocks. Overall, our little one seems to be coping with single-use-plastic free life pretty well, despite my hit and miss cooking, but that’s a story for another day.

 

 

 

 

DAY 12 – KETCHUP CATCH-UP

It’s time for another hair wash: After the initial fail of bicarbonate of soda shampoo due to operator error (I used too little of it), it turned out that bicarb is actually fairly effective. However, I’d also heard it rumoured that tomato ketchup made a great shampoo too.

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Not one to pass up on such a delightful prospect, I eagerly took the bottle of ketchup into the shower. One large dollop of the red stuff onto my hand (it was chilled from the fridge so probably would have been more pleasant at room temperature, if truth be told) and I keenly rubbed it into my wet hair and scalp.

I had a vague memory of ketchup in relation to washing hair but was reminded properly when someone mentioned blonde hair turning green after swimming. That was it! Ketchup is supposed to be great for removing the green stain of chlorine from bleached hair.

Even established hairdressers, Percy & Reed agree; “For blonde hair that has gone green from chlorine or salt water, shampoo your hair as normal, then rinse tomato ketchup through your hair and leave it on for about five minutes.”

Ah, okay, that was not what I did. I used the ketchup as my shampoo, and here’s what happened:

MY VERDICT:

KETCHUP SHAMPOO – The washing experience itself was interesting as it conjured up vaguely pleasant memories of eating chips but felt a little at odds with taking a hot shower. After rinsing thoroughly, I keenly dried my hair to see the results.

I’ve always felt that ketchup was good for cutting through the grease of chips during dinner, but it turns out it doesn’t do much for greasy hair. In fact, it seemed to make it even more greasy. To add to that, my hair smelled of tomato ketchup – not good!

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Basically, I took a photo as evidence, then went straight back to the bathroom to wash my hair again with the tried and tested bicarb of soda. The results: nice squeaky clean hair and no stench of ketchup – phew!

The ketchup bottle is now safely back in the fridge, where it belongs.

On a final, slightly unsavoury note, it seems that ketchup can actually be classed as a “no-poo shampoo” as it’s said to be great for washing dogs after they’ve rolled in nasty stuff. I have to say, I’d definitely rather the dog smelled of ketchup than fox poo!

DAYS 10 & 11 – SIX EASY NO-PLASTIC SWAPS

There have been a few things along my “no single-use plastic” journey which have been relatively easy to replace, so I thought I’d share some of them with you:

CHOCOLATE: Hooray! Personally, I would find life hard without dark chocolate, so this one makes me very happy. But it’s not just the dark stuff; you can buy plenty of other types of chocolate without plastic packaging. Most 100g bars are in either recyclable foil & cardboard or paper and card. Virtually all supermarkets stock a wide variety, including milk, ginger, orange, salted caramel and one of our favourite treats Lindt Dark Strawberry Intense chocolate. My staple though, has to be Green & Blacks Organic 70% yum!

Replacing face and body moisturisers with one recyclable tin of All Round Cream

MOISTURISER: I have to admit that I’m generally not brand-loyal and often try out new eco-products that I’ve never heard of before. However, Lavera is one of the big players in eco-brand cosmetics and toiletries and I was pleased to find a large (recyclable) tin of their Organic All-Round Cream which is for both face and body. Previously, I’d been using a glass jar of night moisturiser (with plastic lid), a plastic pump bottle of day moisturiser and a plastic bottle of body lotion. All of them are eco/organic products and I will recycle all the containers, of course. Back to the All-Round Cream: I genuinely love it! It smells amazing and is rich and creamy and there’s no plastic in sight. Well done Lavera – I might have just become brand loyal.

SOAP: This is a fairly easy one if you have an independent health food shop nearby. I’ve noticed a number of places do un-packaged Faith in Nature soap. It’s that simple (assuming the shop don’t then put it in a plastic bag!) However, it looks like they only sell it plastic wrapped if you buy online.

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Out with the plastic tub of eco-deodorant and in with the tin!

DEODORANT: Over the years I have tried numerous “no-nasties” deodorants. To be honest I have yet to find one which works anywhere near as well as the alleged breast cancer inducing, aluminium- laden high street versions. I’ve always reserved those for sweat-inducing social occasions. However, particularly in winter, I find there’s usually no need for a mega-deodorant, so am happy with my eco-deodorants the majority of the time.

I was using Soapwalla deodorant which seemed to be fairly effective on normal days but comes in a plastic pot. I’ve since changed to Earth Conscious Hippy Paste deodorant in a recyclable tin, which smells good but doesn’t stop the stink on super sweaty days. They do however, make a donation from their sales to the Marine Conservation Society, which is a bonus!

LOO ROLL: I have found recycled Ecoleaf loo roll (why would anyone use anything else to wipe their bum?) in a biodegradable potato-starch wrap at our local health food shop. I’ve also seen it being sold in the organic farm shop so it’s fairly easy to come by. Prior to this challenge I used to line the bathroom bin with the plastic loo roll wrapper but now it will be the biodegradable version getting a second life before it’s sent to the tip.

Recycled loo roll in compostable wrap

DISH CLOTHS: Finally, I have found some not packaged in plastic hiding at the local supermarket! As well as only being wrapped in paper, the wrapper was gummed rather than sticky-taped together. Clean work surfaces, here we come!

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The elusive non-plastic wrapped dishcloths!

I hope this post might inspire you to look around and choose products without plastic packaging too as it’s not always that hard!

DAYS 6 & 7 – SCRAMBLED EGGS AND SLS

DAY 6: So after the disappointment of my first try with bicarb shampoo, I had high hopes for eggs! It may sound a bit grim but I remember my mum using duck eggs to condition my hair as a child, so surely there must be something in this?

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Eggs and Lavender oil –  and yes, the glass bottle from my cupboard has a plastic cap.

There are a few references to egg shampoo around but here’s the one that I used. Essentially, all you do is crack an egg into a cup, whisk it up with a fork, then add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. Take this into the shower with you, wet your hair and then pour it on. Rub the mixture into your scalp and leave for a couple of minutes, then rinse in coolish water to prevent scrambled eggs on your head!

MY VERDICT:

EGG SHAMPOO – I really, really wanted this to be the answer. I have long, fine hair which is prone to being greasy at the roots and a bit dry at the ends, so maybe I’m asking a lot of the humble egg?

I have to say that I definitely dislike the smell of raw egg, but the lavender oil did help. Also, pouring egg onto your head is actually quite difficult because it’s very runny, so I lost a lot of it down my back (urgh – cold slime!) But, I still had plenty left to apply to my hair, and after a couple of minutes rinsed it out in a slightly cooler-than-usual shower to prevent  any scrambling. The idea of the eggs cooking on your head in the shower sounds like a myth but I didn’t have the time or the inclination to test it out. The cool water was fine as it’s nearly summer and the bathroom is warm but I’m not so sure how pleasant this would be in the depths of winter.

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The view from above of egg-washed hair – not as bad as I thought!

After drying my hair, overall it felt, quite honestly, still a bit dirty and greasy. It looks okay, but I think it still feels a bit unwashed at the back once again.

DAY 7: SHAMPOO BARS & SLS:

I’ve had suggestions to use shampoo bars available from Lush, which I used to use during my teenage years of endless festivals and camping (no spillage!) It turns out that the reason you don’t see shampoo bars around other than in Lush shops is because they own the patent. Good for them; not so good for the environment as it turns out. According to their estimates the shampoo bars have saved around 30 million plastic bottles from heading to landfill. Imagine if the big players in the shampoo industry were doing this too!

Personally, I was reluctant to use Lush shampoo bars as they contain the dreaded Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) which I have spent many years avoiding as it is allegedly a carcinogen. So I wrote to Lush asking if they plan a non-SLS version, which they don’t, however, they have said this: “please rest assured that the SLS we use is completely safe and we use less than half of the industry maximum level” and they went on to say that “any part of it that may be a carcinogen is removed.”

I’ve asked for a bit more information before I’m totally satisfied, so until then, next stop on the no-poo shampoo train is…ketchup!

 

DAY 4 -“NO POO”BICARB SHAMPOO

I like to have clean hair, but shampoo and conditioner come in plastic bottles. Many moons ago I washed my hair with soap at Glastonbury festival and remember a tangled dry mess on my head for many days afterwards. Surely, there must be something better for your hair than soap?

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Saying goodbye to my nice eco-friendly but plastic-wrapped bubbly shampoo!

First up to be investigated as a shampoo alternative is bicarbonate of soda, which I was super excited to find being sold in bulk. Not only am I using it as an ingredient for toothpaste, but it is meant to be a bit of a wonder-product for the household. It’s even supposed to be great for cleaning ovens (if I ever get round to trying that one, I will let you know the results!)

As bicarb has such wonderful cleaning properties it seems hardly surprising that it’s been suggested as an alternative to the usual plastic-bottled shampoo. So, I thought I’d give it a go. There are instructions for using bicarb as shampoo on this blog. Essentially, you add a little water to your bicarb of soda to make a paste and then rub it into your hair and rinse.

MY VERDICT:

BICARBONATE OF SODA SHAMPOO – It’s a bit awkward decanting the powder into your hand whilst in the shower; I was worried I was going to either get it all wet or drop the whole lot. I managed to create a paste without spillage and added a few splashes of water (not too much or else it washes away), then scrubbed it into my scalp and hair.

It definitely wasn’t as satisfying as the usual lovely smelling, creamy lather of shampoo bubbles, but I  repeated as suggested, (although in hind sight, not as many times as per the instructions) and finally, rinsed thoroughly and dried it.

It seems that I should have applied and rinsed the bicarb shampoo a few more times as I didn’t reach the “squeaky clean, shiny hair” that was described. Apparently, the more you use it, the less you need.

Once dried, the front of my hair looked good and clean but the back and underneath still felt greasy.  So,  I’m not entirely convinced by this one yet, although it’s likely that I was too frugal with my application. I will give bicarb shampoo a few more goes but next up on the “no-poo shampoo” list, I’ll be trying out egg!