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.

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.