Easter weekend, the end of my Lenten challenge to cut single-use plastics from my life. The end of the 40 days, but just the beginning of the journey. Funny, isn't it, how once something is brought to your attention, you notice things - like the abundance of single-use plastics all around us - that you just took for granted before? So I am glad of the challenge, but it has only been a beginning, an eye-opener if you like, to the changes that have to be made. As with all lifestyle changes, this requires some thought and some research, so rather than beating ourselves up about all that we are unable to do, or being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, it is best just to begin, and to take small steps towards the changes we need to make. Small step by small step, we will get to where we want to be and, hopefully, take others with us. Changing away from plastics also requires some financial investment. Although I am sure this lifestyle change saves money in the longer-term, initially, there are different products which need to be sourced and ingredients which have to be purchased. Here are some of the simple changes I have made over the last few weeks ....
Top purchase, actually my Christmas present, a cup to take out and about to save using disposable coffee cups, which are not recyclable. Need some motivation? How about this picture?
Starbucks even offer you a slight financial incentive for bringing your own mug - 25p off your beverage. Unfortunately, the plastic lining inside disposable coffee mugs mean that they are not easily recyclable, and then there are those nasty SUP lids. "Conventional paper cups are made from paper laminated with plastic, making them difficult to recycle. Under EU health and safety regulations, coffee cups cannot be made from 100% paper or cardboard alone. A thin layer of plastic is bonded on to the cup to keep the drink warm and stop the paper from getting soggy. But it is attached so tightly that those cups need special facilities to separate the linings, with almost all recycling plants rejecting the cups and sending them straight to landfill." (The Guardian, 27/6/14)
The mooncup has been a revelation to me, and I wish I had discovered it a long time ago. Perhaps you've not heard of this alternative to sanitary towels or tampons either. A one-off purchase of around £20, washable and reusable - and made in the UK. Just think of all the money you save over the years, never mind all the sanitary waste prevented from polluting the world. I confess I was a little apprehensive, and it did take a little getting used to - but I am talking about a day, a couple of uses - and I won't look back. Just check out the reviews and ratings online for this clever little life-changing invention. And you don't feel it when you are wearing it; it can be worn whilst swimming, camping ... no leaks. At least worth considering, perhaps? More information here. Available in your local Boots, or online. Really not your thing? Then do consider reusable or washable sanitary towels? Gross? Well, no worse than washable nappies, hey?
Beyond replacing the plastic bottles of liquid soap in our bathroom with bars of soap, I was looking at how to get rid of the plastic shampoo bottles. I have a friend who washes her hair with baking soda, and an apple cider vinegar rinse. She uses just water on her kids' hair, and it looks so healthy and shiny. The theory is, if you use shampoo, you need more shampoo .... I haven't been quite brave enough to go for the baking soda option. However, I did discover these shampoo bars, available online, or at Lush, and decided I would give them a go. I am still trying to sources the cheapest apple cider vinegar as you need to use it as a conditioning rinse with natural shampoos, so once I've got that sorted, I will give this a go.
Still in the bathroom, a friend and I have found bamboo toothbrushes at reasonable cost online, and plan to place an order together to reduce the cost of delivery. We also had a go at making our own toothpaste. More on that to follow.
A friend gave me a jar of soap nuts to try as an alternative to laundry detergent, and we have been impressed by their cleaning power, and the softness of the laundry. The scent of the washing is neutral; I haven't had any complaints in our family. We managed to source the pictured bag on Amazon for under a tenner and, as you only add 3-4 soap nut halves to each wash in a small canvas bag (supplied), this purchase should last us for some months. My friend also shared a recipe for laundry soap, which made a great alternative, and also smelled really nice. More to follow on that, too.
It has been interesting to experiment with making our own personal hygiene and home cleaning products from simple ingredients, which are readily available at reasonable prices. Some of the things we have made include a general purpose cleaner for the house, dishwasher detergent, deodorant and body butter. I will post separately about how we did that, but another purchase has been a steam mop, which cost us about £40 and is perfect for cleaning our laminate and tiled floors without the need for harsh detergents. The steam can even be used for freshening carpets and rugs.
And, finally, how's this for an innovative idea? Edible cutlery ..... Would you use it?