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.

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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!

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!

DAY 3 – BULK BUYING

I started my third day (3rd June) of being single-use plastic free with my second venture into our local bulk-buy shop (I had a quick nose around it before the challenge started).

Inside there are lots of containers with scoops, including an actual pick ‘n’ mix for sweets (bonus!) although I did manage to resist them this time. You can get a good variety of stuff including dried fruits, muesli, washing powder (no eco-brands), salt, sugar and rice, but the organic options are limited to flour which I can buy in paper bags anyway.

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The lady behind the till was friendly, helpful and not in the slightest bit judgemental about me bringing my own containers unlike when I had visited previously to enquire (different lady, different attitude). We soon established that although most of my containers (old takeaway tubs) were identical, the price she needed to deduct from each filled tub would depend on what it was filled with. She explained that this slight complication was due to them having a fancy hi-tech till rather than an old fashioned one. In reality, all this meant was that I had to tell her what I wanted to buy first, then she weighed the tub at the appropriate cost and wrote the amount on it that she would deduct at the end. For example, the tub for the bicarbonate of soda was 4p whereas for mixed nuts it was 23p, because their cost per 100g was different.

The good news is that once this has been done I either simply use the same tub with the label already on it next time, or write a list of the tub weight/product prices and take it with me. Good job we’ve had the odd takeaway in our time as we’re going to be using a lot of tubs! (I’m sure I’ll get to blogging about non-plastic container options at some point but for now I’m using the things which are already in our cupboards).

Whilst this might all sound like a big hassle, she did say that if I left all the tubs with her in future she’d fill them all and do the calculations so that I could simply pick them up later in the day. And to add to that, there’s the bonus that it is a genuinely cheaper way to buy many of these products.

I think we’re actually really lucky to have a bulk-buy shop nearby as I’ve been unable to locate any others. I’d be interested to know how common they actually are, so keep your eyes peeled and let me know!

Day 2 – SALTY TOOTHPASTE

HOME-MADE TOOTHPASTE:

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Like most people, I want to start the day with lovely fresh breath and I have used eco-toothpaste to do the job for many years. But I’ve been unable to find toothpaste in anything other than plastic tubes. They are recyclable, but that’s not the point of this challenge, so even though I have a perfectly good and tasty stash of toothpaste staring at me in the bathroom, I’ve ventured into the realms of a home-made, no plastic version.

Actually, it  turns out that toothpaste is incredibly quick and easy to make: it’s literally just coconut oil and bicarbonate of soda mixed together with peppermint oil for that minty fresh taste. The recipe I used is here.

Bicarbonate of soda is a well-known ingredient of many commercially available toothpastes and allegedly helps to remove stains and restore the mouth’s pH balance. Combine that with coconut oil, which is said to have antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties (the ancient Indian technique of swishing coconut oil around your mouth or oil pulling has been shown to reduce plaque and gum disease) and this all sounds like a good recipe for fresh-breath to me.

Sadly, our bicarb from the back of the cupboard is in an overly-sturdy plastic pot and has already been around for a number of years (and no doubt will be here for a few hundred more). I remember being annoyed about this over-packaging at the time but lack of choice is one of the joys of shopping local.  I’m sure I have bought bicarb of soda previously in a cardboard box, although it would have had a plastic bag inside it, I’m sure.

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MY VERDICT: Home-made bicarb toothpaste tastes pretty foul! There’s no getting away from it. Imagine putting a teaspoon of salt in your mouth and scrubbing, although I have to say that my teeth do feel super clean and the aftertaste is coconutty, so it’s not entirely unpleasant. I didn’t use peppermint extract as I didn’t have any, so maybe this would help (if I can find it being sold in a glass bottle).

I can cope with a bit of saltiness twice a day but I must sort out storage. I mixed the toothpaste in a glass ramekin but it needs a lid and as the coconut oil is fat, I don’t want to store it in plastic due to the leaching, nasty chemicals. What I need right now is a small glass jar. Until I find one, a little piece of foil will have to do (which I’ll recycle afterwards of course!)

***UPDATE*** 3/6/16

Hooray! I have found a local shop that sells unpackaged bicarbonate of soda, and here’s the proof in an old (but clean) takeaway tub:

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If you were wondering – it didn’t cost 4p – that relates to the weight of the tub which they minus off the price of the goods.