DAYS 25 & 26 – ITALIAN INFLUENCE

This weekend, we’ve managed to prove that it is possible to smash the “plastic diet” which has come about due to the lack of plastic-free snack foods available.

We had a couple of days of near desperation this week: We ran low on chocolate, bread (we’ve been eating a lot of toast!) oat cakes and ooh bars. It was time to get cooking.

Lucky for me, my partner’s forte is baking amazing chocolate cakes. This was very much a part of how we ended up together – the way to a girl’s heart ‘n’ all that.

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The Italians know how to package biscuits without plastic!

We headed to the shops and he was somewhat overexcited at finding some biscuits packaged without plastic. They were Italian amaretti biscuits which were, like most biscuits in Italy are, in a lovely paper bag. They don’t need two layers of plastic packaging and a cardboard box to protect their precious biscuits. Maybe they don’t care about the odd crushed one, or maybe our layers of packaging are simply unnecessary?

So, the usual chocolate biscuit refrigerator cake recipe was adapted accordingly, using the amaretti biscuits instead of digestives and dates (from the bulk buy shop) instead of glace cherries. The result: much sweeter, but still decadent and delicious.

Sticking with the Italian theme, we opted for a rare takeout treat for dinner, of pizza from a local pub.  The great news was that like most takeaway pizza, they came in cardboard boxes with not a piece of plastic in sight. Takeaways have proven tricky so far (i.e. we haven’t had one during the Plastic Challenge ) as the fish and chip van serves up in polystyrene trays and the Indian restaurant packs its takeaways in plastic tubs (of which we have hundreds, but at least I’m making constant use of them particularly with all this bulk food buying).

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Takeaway pizza in a cardboard box – I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo until I was halfway through eating it!

We now have full tummies (hooray!) and to end this weekend of comfort food (induced by the referendum) my mum also baked a huge chocolate cake because she felt sorry for us. I think she’d read my Plastic Diet blog – Thanks Mum!

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Even more chocolate cake: Delicious!

Days 23 &24: EASY PEASY SNACKS & SPICES

Snack food has definitely been lacking in our lives this month as there’s been no reaching for a packet of crisps, a flapjack or my favourite; dark chocolate rice cakes.

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I took this photo on 31st May as I knew it would the last of my favourite snack for a while!

We’ve had to get a bit creative and make our own snack food and as I do not regard myself as either a good or enthusiastic cook; I like to keep things quick and easy. So far our snacks have revolved around two recipes: Oat cakes and Ooh bars, the latter are so called because the toddler says “ooh!” when he sees them (hooray someone likes my cooking!)

I’ve been using this simple BBC Good Food recipe for oat cakes. They’re great as savoury snacks with a bit of butter or cheese,  although I’m pretty certain they’d be amazing dunked in melted chocolate too.

The Ooh bar recipe is more freestyle: It involves mashing some ripe bananas (three or four), adding a few cups of oats, a handful of raisins and a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix together and keep adding oats until the mixture becomes like a dough, then dollop spoonfuls onto a baking tray/baking paper and cook for about 15-20 mins on a medium/high heat.

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Leave them to cool, say “ooh!” and enjoy

In terms of ingredients for both snacks, they’ve all been pretty easy to buy without single-use plastic: The oats are sold in a paper bag, I can buy raisins in bulk, butter comes in standard butter packs, but it wasn’t long before I ran out of cinnamon.

The bulk buy shop don’t do herbs and spices by the scoop, but after asking around it turned out that one of the local health food shops do. That was the problem very easily solved as I simply took my clean spice jar with me. 81p later, it was job done, easy peasy!

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Herbs & Spices by the scoop in my local health food shop

Talking of peas, after my lengthy discussion at the organic farm shop about their peas in a box, a large vat of petit pois by the scoop has appeared in their freezer! I was delighted to be able to confuse the lady on the till by presenting her with my own tub filled with peas (rather than the plastic bag provided) plus an identical tub for her to weigh so she could minus off the weight of the tub from the final price, as they do in the bulk buy store. She ended up talking about how much it weighed and that she’d take 2.4p off the price. I couldn’t be bothered to argue as I was just so peased (get it!) to have found them.

DAYS 18 & 19: THE PLASTIC DIET

The Plastic Challenge has made us realise that some things are near impossible to get hold of without single-use plastic packaging. So, I thought I’d share a few of the foodstuffs that we miss  – and if anyone has any suggestions of alternatives, I’m all ears!

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Home-made oat cakes are rather tasty!

BISCUITS: It’s impossible to buy biscuits without a plastic wrapper. Tunnocks bars have been suggested as they come in waxy paper, but they still have an outer plastic wrapping. Home-made is the only way, and to date I’ve made two successful batches of oat cakes. One day, I’ll get round to making something more adventurous…maybe… when I get time.

SAVOURY SNACKS: Crisps, rice cakes, crisp breads: they all come plastic wrapped. Oh, how we miss salty snacks. I’ve tried making some sweet potato crisps (finely sliced, cooked in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt) which were delicious, but a baking tray full created only a handful of crisps which were gone in about ten seconds, so without industrial cooking facilities, this one is a non-starter.

MARMITE: Glass jar but with a big un-recyclable plastic lid. Love it, but can’t have it.

COFFEE: My partner was thrilled to discover a packet of ground coffee in paper packaging only to discover when he opened it that it was plasticised on the inside. I’m unaffected by this one as I don’t drink coffee.

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I’m okay eating dark chocolate – 100g at a time!

MILK CHOCOLATE BARS: Again, I’m not bothered by this as I’m happy eating non plastic wrapped dark chocolate in large 100g bars, but the lack of big brand milk chocolate options is definitely difficult for others in the household!

PEANUT BUTTER & JAM: As mentioned in my previous post, the only brand of peanut butter I could find in a glass jar with metal lid has a sneaky plastic seal around it. We’ve not found any other options yet. In fact, we’ve also just bought a jar of big brand jam as there was no plastic seal, but I’ve not found a natural-sugars only alternative without plastic yet.

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Hummus in a glass jar – no plastic in sight!

HUMMUS: We used to get through a tub of hummus about every other day, but they come in little, single-use plastic tubs. I tried making my own, which is a bit of a hassle as we don’t have a food processor, but I think it tastes good. However, my toddler is less keen on mum’s home-made hummus and finally, I found hummus in a glass jar with metal lid. “Hooray!” I thought, but again, the toddler did not approve.

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I like the home-made hummus even if no one else does!

COUS COUS: The bulk buy shop might do pasta, rice, flour, dried fruit, muesli and all kinds of other things, but sadly, the only cous cous they have is in a plastic packet.

BERRIES: It seems near impossible to buy berries without their plastic punnet (which shops won’t re-use if you take your own container), but it’s not long to Pick Your Own season, so I’m hoping we’ll soon have strawberries! I’ve been substituting them with loose cherries and plums from the green grocer, but de-stoning these for the little one is a bit of a chore.

NAAN BREADS: We love a good, home-made curry but we’ve had to go without naan as we can only find them plastic wrapped. The good news though is that the bulk buy shop sells gram flour, so home-made onion bhajis, here we come!

YOGURT: I’ve only found one glass jar of yogurt being sold so far and it was “kefir” which is some special type of fermented milk and costs about 4 times the amount of normal yogurt. The problem of plastic yogurt pots can be solved with a yogurt maker which I am trying out right now (the first batch is in the fridge).

In conclusion: Frankly, this would be a far easier challenge for someone who loves baking (that’s not me if you’re wondering – I prefer eating to cooking), and if we’re to go single-use plastic free in the long term, we could really do with a vegetable patch to grow soft fruit, a food processor and maybe even a live-in chef?

All in all, the lack of plastic-wrapped foodstuffs is having a fairly big impact on our eating habits, and it’s mostly snack food that’s taken the hit. Whilst that is no bad thing in many respects, I’m a “grazer” when it comes to eating so I’m spending quite a lot of time hungry because there are no easy snacks to reach for.  It turns out that the Plastic Challenge is actually a plastic diet!

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!

DAY 8 – WORLD OCEAN’S DAY

It’s World Ocean’s Day! You may have heard of it and you’ll probably see it on social media, but most importantly you can take part, and honestly, it won’t take much effort!

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I’m not going to preach on about the wonders of the ocean. I’m sure that most of you have an appreciation of it, whether that’s from exploring rock pools as a child or swimming off a beautiful beach whilst on holiday. And let’s face it, none of us want to spend time hanging out on beaches covered in litter or swimming in oceans filled with sewage.

You can do your bit by joining or even organising a beach clean-up, which is a surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying pastime. The Marine Conservation Society organise the annual Great British Beach Clean, and last year volunteers picked up an astounding 100 plastic bottles per kilometre amongst all the other rubbish.

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Image Credit: Jacki Clarke

But surely we need to tackle the root of the problem? If we simply reduce the amount of waste we produce, then there would be less litter polluting our planet.

So here are a few QUICK TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR WASTE today:

1) Say “No” to single-use plastic bottles of water. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill up at home, work or when you’re out and about. I have an Onya bottle but have found the cap a bit leaky, however their sports cap is great and water tight.

2) Don’t use disposable take-away cups, either enjoy your time sitting in a cafe drinking from a crockery cup or invest in a reusable travel mug. There are plenty of stylish options like these bamboo reusable take-away cups.

3) Think before you flush! Don’t put anything down the loo except wee, poo and toilet tissue. Anything else should go in the bin. I am constantly astounded by the amount of sewage related debris on the beach because people think their toilet is a one way street to some imaginary waste tip.

Cotton bud sticks credit Marine Conservation Society

Image Credit: Marine Conservation Society

4) Say “No” to disposable plastic straws. Seriously, you don’t need a straw, and if you really  think you do you can buy reusable ones.

5) Choose products with less packaging. It’s often not possible to avoid single-use plastic, as I’m discovering, but there is choice out there. Do you really need that chocolate éclair packaged in a plastic tray within a box with a plastic window? Maybe you could buy a delicious bar of chocolate packaged only in recyclable foil and cardboard instead?

As long as there’s an appetite for over-packaging,  the litter will continue, but if we all make a small change in our shopping habits, the manufacturers and retailers will start to take notice. Lots of small changes can lead to a big one, so go on…

Choose to make one small change today!