#PlasticBandWagon part 3 – get rid of all your Tupperware?

Please note – this is NOT my Tupperware drawer. This is a borrowed image from this very funny article after a Google image search of “messy Tupperware drawer”, because all my Tupperware is stored very neatly with (almost) no missing lids.

So I’m seeing lots of stuff in my social media echo chamber about how to “rid your house of plastic”, “go plastic free” and lots of “plastic is rubbish!” posts. Like I’ve said in my previous post about plastic toys, I don’t think that plastic itself is rubbish, I think it’s pretty useful. Disposal of single-use plastic is a massive problem, of course, but I think that the plastic that we already have – whether given to us, bought in former times when we didn’t think about this stuff, or just durable, useful stuff which will last a long time – should be looked after, used and reused until it’s no longer usable, then disposed of as responsibly as possible. We should respect it for the energy and virgin materials we took from the planet to create it. I find the whole “plastic is evil” mantra to be very simplistic and usually a bit smug – but hey, I love your hand-knitted hemp and bamboo hammock, well done, you’re a much better human than me.

Plus, I bloody love Tupperware. Tidy, useful, stackable Tupperware. So imagine my horror when my good friend and blog follower Anne sent me a link to this: “Save your money and save the planet! I absolutely need to replace my entire Tupperware cabinet with these!”

Further quotation from the product page:

“Made with 100% Platinum silicone. Because you’re worth it. Traditional plastic containers are petroleum based and can contain harmful chemicals. These toxins can leach into your food especially when heating or microwaving. That’s why pure silicone is best for your health. No BPA, no lead, no PVC, no Phthalates.”

Surprise, surprise, 60% off at the moment #WarOnPlastic #PlasticFreeJuly. Wonder if L’Oréal know that they’ve nicked their slogan…?

Silicone seems to be the anti-plastic material being advertised most aggressively at the moment – not biodegradable, but recyclable “where facilities exist”. RecycleNow has no information on silicone recycling, and a fairly thorough Google of “silicone recycling in London” reaped no rewards… so these will probably last forever too.

So, is Tupperware (or any other brand of plastic food storage system) actually dangerous and should we all be going out a replacing it with other materials?

There are plenty of articles out there like this one, which could very feasibly terrify us all into chucking out our plastic boxes and replacing with silicone/bamboo/glass/whatever, anything to prevent “structural damage to your brain” and “changes in gender-specific behaviour and abnormal sexual behaviour” – NB no definition of these given. There’s also a helpful reference to a Daily Mail article. And who is Dr Mercola exactly – does he have some sort of doctoral qualification in chemical engineering or toxicology? No.

Alternatively, there’s some nice evidence-based science from actual scientists at Cancer Research UK and Harvard Health Publishing – my summary take from these articles is that microwave-safe plastic containers are safe, but heating food in lots of other kinds of plastic probably isn’t a great idea. This is also a really useful , although maybe slightly alarmist article on the different types of plastic and the ones to avoid. All my food boxes are plastic #5, so I’m certainly not worried about using them for storage.

Am I convinced about the heat issue from microwaving or dish washing? There’s so much out there, but the science-based stuff (more here and here) suggests it’s probably ok if you avoid BPA and stick to microwave-safe containers – but then there’s doubt cast on cans! It’s endless… This article is also really good and warrants further reading, as there’s a lot I don’t understand in it about plastic science.

Anyway, there is endless reading to be done and it’s very difficult to analyse the research unless you’re a chemical engineer. So my conclusions are:

  • I’m going to keep using my Tupperware for storage, but try to avoid microwaving in it (I don’t do this much anyway) or using in the dishwasher.
  • I’m not going to buy some dubious silicone cling-film replacement, which by many reports and reviews isn’t that good anyway, made by companies who are cashing in on the #WarOnPlastic like it’s some kind of fad. And I’m going to keep on exposing and getting cross about green-washing bullsh*t like this, because it distracts us from the real issues at stake. Buying yet more stuff will not save the planet.
  • I’m going to keep encouraging people to reuse and respect their existing plastic possessions, rather than succumbing to this weird demonisation of useful, durable stuff which we already possess.
  • I’m going to keep working on eliminating single-use plastic from our lives, but with an understanding that I can’t do it all at once.
  • Here endeth the lesson.

Back soon with updates from the Council about #smokegate, arguing with strangers on the internet about paper bags, and overcoming my eBay antipathy.

Everyday activism – does pester power work? #MyCenterParcsFeedback

Magnificent giant redwoods at Center Parcs, Longleat

Pester power is a thing, right? Children are manipulated by the media and advertising into wanting something, then pressurise their parents endlessly to get it, and they eventually give in. I seem to remember this being the reason you often can’t buy chocolate at supermarket tills anymore. I can’t imagine many toddlers tantrumming over batteries and ibuprofen these days.

The last episode of the BBC documentary War on Plastic invited viewers to “pester” retailers by returning unwanted plastic packaging to the supermarkets, and post on social media with the #OurPlasticFeedback tag. I’ve seen a lot of this shared on Twitter in the last week, with mainly the same generic responses from the supermarkets about what they’re doing to reduce plastic waste. Most worryingly is all the promises to make more of it recyclable – when we know that the UK recycling system is overwhelmed and dysfunctional, with large amounts of waste being sent to landfill anyway due to contamination or inappropriate items being put in the recycling, or sent overseas with no audit trail of whether it is actually recycled, burnt or put in landfill.

There’s a real feeling for me that none of the actions needed are happening fast enough, and we as consumers can’t do much about it – the sheer scale of the problem requires corporations to make the high-impact changes.

But a bit of pestering feels quite good, so I think we should keep at it, and highlight things as we come across them to put pressure on companies to get better at this stuff and be accountable for their environmental impact.

So anyway, we went to Center Parcs at Longleat last week with the small one and some members of the grandparental team. It was brilliant, we all had an amazing time – lovely site with some awesome trees, a lot of “splish splash” and we even managed a couple of date nights, with free babysitting. Thanks Grandad and Granny!

But this upset me a lot, especially as you all know I am obsessed with dishwashing.

One disposable washing up sponge per lodge for each stay x approx 800 lodges x 6 Center Parcs villages in the UK (not even thinking about the villages in Europe) x 97% occupancy over 52 weeks = something like 242,112 sponges used per year, ending up in landfill or incinerated. Not to mention the horrible thought that each dishcloth (made of grim microfibre polyester stuff) and tea towel might also be thrown away after each stay. So I’ve written to them and tweeted them to see if they have any plans to switch to reusable options. (Also heaped a ton of praise on the staff members we encountered, all of whom, without exception, were excellent).

I’ve also been hassling Greenwich Council about a local air pollution issue and their lack of action to address it, in writing and copied to my local MP and councillors. What has particularly irritated me is the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and requests on Twitter for people to pledge to have a bonfire free summer for Clean Air Day, while ignoring local issues which flout air quality laws.

#greenwashing

Essentially, this whole climate situation is making me feel quite anxious and a bit angry that it’s so hard to make the right choices in the face of companies who won’t make changes quickly enough, for fear of impacting their bottom line. And it’s made me feel a bit better and a bit more in control to start complaining about stuff. I highly recommend it. I’m not convinced it will make any difference, but it’s got to be worth a try, right?

#SaturdaySwitch part 3 – the magical bottomless laundry basket

There is a German fairy tale I remember reading at school about a family with a magic porridge pot which produces endless porridge. One day, the mother (of course…) forgets to tell it to stop cooking, and it overflows endlessly until the whole town is full of porridge. I can’t remember what happens at the end but the it’s probably a happy ending involving an elf or fairy of some sort. And hopefully someone gives the mother some wine and helps her clean the house up.

So I think in most households with small people, the laundry basket feels a bit like this – if you blink, it’s overflowing again and you lose any semblance of control. I can’t imagine how people cope once multiple school uniforms, football kits and all that are in the mix. Although by then the food-related mess may have reduced a bit, I hope…?

We’ve been using these laundry tablets from Aldi for absolutely ages, because they’re cheap, basically, and they get the job done. The blurb says to use 2 tablets per wash, which I actually didn’t realise and have always used only one, so the cost per wash is 4.9p.

BUT the tablets come wrapped in these little bastards:

Possibly the most annoying bits of plastic known to man, and very hard to clean and dry for the ecobrick. So I have just switched to a big 2.6kg carton, which eliminates 18 of these plastic sachets. Or reduces the demand for them, at least, by me not buying them. I think works out cheaper if you don’t use the advised dosage of 85ml or 65g (which based on previous experience with tablets is more than you need). So by using 50ml or 42g (I totally don’t understand this conversion rate – I thought it was like for like with liquid and solids but apparently not!), I make it 4.8p per wash. So not dramatically cheaper, but a lot less annoying plastic rubbish.

I bought a four pack of these snazzy measuring scoops in different sizes too (NB I bought these before the beginning of “no buy July” – more on this tomorrow). My husband is using one for his porridge at work, and has stopped using the expensive sachets of oats with the little measuring line for milk. I will work out the plastic and money saving on this in my copious spare time – but the magnificent Jack Monroe has done her own version here at 3p per portion, vs. Asda’s own brand at 7.9p per portion.

So the washing powder seemed like a nice straightforward Saturday Switch. But then I read something which suggested that the packaging of laundry boxes isn’t recylable, as it’s coated in plastic to protect the powder from moisture and humidity. So is that true, or is this true?

I am going to tweet Aldi to see if they can offer some reassurance on this… will keep you posted.

Then there are the many various “eco” brands of laundry out there on the market, some of which come in plastic packaging. What constitutes cruelty-free, or even vegan? What causes the least pollution? Is there any way to make a further switch that’s still cost-effective, as well as also being effective on stubborn pesto stains?

I feel like each question I ask generates about another 100 questions and this is going to be a LONG journey. I know you’re all rooting for me – say hi in the comments or on Twitter, especially if I don’t know you in real life! Who are my mystery readers in Finland, Sweden, South Korea, Kenya and Qatar? I would love to know!

P.S. Sorry for the hiatus in posting this week, been on holiday to Center Parcs. Watch this space this week for Center Parcs’ plastic sins, my everyday activism ideas, “No Buy July” and maybe some other things, depending on the length of a certain small person’s naps…

#plasticbandwagon cont. – Motherhood, Consumption and Guilt

The minute you have a baby, or even considerably beforehand in some cases (NCT “newsletter”, I’m looking at YOU), people start trying to sell you stuff. Bounty reps come into your room when you’ve barely finished giving birth to pressure you into buying their newborn photo bundle, meanwhile harvesting your contact information to begin an email campaign convincing you of all the essential stuff you have to buy to keep your child alive. They are subcontracted by HMRC to distribute the Child Benefit form, so you end up giving them your details without really realising what’s going on (it’s possible to manage this differently, apparently, but honestly, when you’ve just given birth, are you going to argue?)

I could write a LOT about motherhood and guilt, and the way societal pressures and judgments push us into polarising mothers by their parenting choices (breast/bottle, puree/baby-led weaning, go back to work or stay at home etc. etc. etc.) You’re a bad mother if you don’t have the right pushchair and snazzy changing bag, you absolutely NEED all this stuff to give your child the best start in life. But you’re also now a bad mother if you buy too much stuff – in fact, it’s probably ALL your fault, especially if the stuff is plastic. Because plastic is in fact evil. As are most mothers.

So I wanted to talk about plastic toys. Here’s an actual plastic bandwagon.

It’s noisy and annoying and my son loves it. Fortunately, it lives at Grandma and Grandad’s house. And it also came from a car boot sale and cost 50p (thanks Grandad for “sourcing”).

There’s a fair amount of snobbery about children’s toys – articles like this would make most ordinary parents feel pretty guilty, judged and lazy, to be honest. Or just confused. (“Why buy plastic tea sets when they can play with real freebies?” Uh, because they will break them and the bits will be sharp and I won’t have a mug to drink my coffee out of and then I will die?) I asked for advice about toys for my son on Facebook once, and received the helpful comment – “whatever you do, don’t fill your house with plastic”.

Personally, I don’t believe there’s anything intrinsically wrong with plastic toys – I don’t think they’re actually toxic if made in the EU (shock, horror), and I don’t think they create gormless kids with no imagination. I do think too many toys causes overwhelm and lack of focus, but that could be toys of any material.

I read something on Twitter a few days ago which struck gold :

Plastic is, admittedly, a perfect material for sturdy, easily cleaned toys. I think the key thing with toys is to buy good quality ones, pass them around your friends and/or use charities. Are toy libraries still a thing?

Tweeted by @curlyheather28 on 24th June, retweeted by my new blogger pal @happy_tortoise

Beautiful sanded-down Scandi wooden toys are of course lovely, but they’re pretty expensive and also made of trees. Surely the best toy out there in terms of the environment is one that already exists.

So I did a quick toy audit at home – not including random household items which have become toys – a milk pan, an old remote control, a tea strainer and some old bangles of mine, among other things – because my son has an imagination all of his own, thanks, the breakdown goes like this:

21% wooden toys, bought new. 8% wooden toys, given as gifts. 8% wooden toys, second hand.

21% plastic toys, bought new. 13 % plastic toys, given as gifts. 29% plastic toys, second hand.

So 37% second hand – car boot sales, hand-me-downs and Facebook marketplace mainly. I would be aiming to increase that ratio as time goes on and reduce what we’re buying new, but I’m not going to lose any more sleep about plastic.

So enough on the guilt about plastic toys, folks. Obviously crap disposable Happy Meal toys that end up discarded very quickly are bad news (petition made famous by the War on Plastic TV programme is here). But durable toys passed on between families or shared within a brilliant community resource like the Charlton Toy Library should be celebrated as pre-loved, not demonised as bad parenting.

Here endeth the rant.

(Just wait until I post about the singing plastic dumper truck. Really)

No Glasto FOMO

Glastonbury 2019 is coming to a close today, and I’ve got no FOMO at all. Seriously, none. Maybe a tiny bit for the amazing food and the Green Fields vibes – but the crowds and the chaos and the long drops, no thanks.

I’ve been twice, in 2015 and 2016, performing with Shakti Sings choir, directed at that time by my amazing friend Susie Ro Prater (clip of our singing from 2015 here). The first year was great – sunny weather, hardly any mud and I was in the first flushes of blossoming love with my now husband. The second year was SO awful in comparison. Terrible weather and horrendous mud. We arrived on the Tuesday night and honestly by Thursday I’d had enough. Then the EU referendum happened. I will never forget sitting in the Greenpeace cafe at 7am watching Glastonbury slowly waking up to the news, a result which most people at the festival were shocked and saddened by.

So now, with a toddler in tow, I don’t think anything could persuade me to go. I know some people take small babies and tots to big festivals – they must be a lot cooler and more relaxed as parents than me, I can’t imagine anything less fun.

I always found the litter hugely depressing too, so I was interested to read about the pledge from Emily Eavis towards a greener festival. The true spirit of Glastonbury to me has always been radical, and the drive towards sustainability and living in harmony with the environment should indeed remain central to the Glastonbury ethos. Two thirds of the 23,500 tons of waste generated by UK festivals annually is estimated to end up in landfill and clearly this needs to change.

So the Glastonbury team have banned the sale of single use plastic bottles on the site, and installed taps for water bottle refills instead. The jury seems to be out so far on the actual impact of this though – I’ve seen a lot of photos like this one, showing loads of rubbish littering the site as it has done in previous years.

Photo credit to Stephen Roberts, via Glasto Goers Facebook group.

A lot of this litter seems to be food packaging and drinks cups, all of which is supposed to be compostable at this year’s festival, but I wonder if there’s some mileage in introducing reusable cups and crockery, as other festivals plan have already done or plan to introduce. Kendall Calling has a scheme where festival-goers get a small amount of money back when they return their coffee cup for reuse and Greenbelt introduced reusable cups at their bars in 2016. In all honesty I think mandating it is probably the only answer, to change behaviours consistently.

The other big festival waste problem is people leaving tents behind – this petition addresses this issue with tent manufacturers, asking them to stop selling “festival tents”, which implies single use, and to brand these differently to encourage care and reuse.

So I think my Glastonbury days are over, and our future lies at smaller, more family-friendly festivals such as Beautiful Days and Fire in the Mountain. Maybe I will feel a small pang watching my all-time favourine band The Cure on TV tonight when they’re headlining the Pyramid stage. But when I go to the fridge to get some lovely cold wine, use my nice clean toilet and finally go to sleep in my nice comfy bed, the feeling will be pure JOMO (JOY of missing out).

#SaturdaySwitch part 2 – yog yog

Yoghurt is a staple of ours and has been since early on in the weaning process. It’s usually very popular and has sometimes been the only thing eaten in times of teething and illness. Sometimes it gets quite messy, and I have tons of funny photos of my boy covered in yoghurt, which would make great headers for this blog – but when he’s 18 he might object to me having shared them publicly, so this stock photo will have to do.

We made a lot of purchase decisions out of convenience/exhaustion in the early days, especially during the brief and hideous period of time when I was working four days a week on the other side of London and we literally couldn’t cope with our lives. So we just got used to buying multi-packs of baby yoghurt, as that’s what we’ve always done. And what a no-brainer of a switch this has turned out to be. Here’s the maths:

Little Yeo – 4 x 90g pot yoghurt, creates 36g empty plastic packaging. Costs: £1.40, or 2 packs for £2 (permanently on offer in Asda) – cost of yoghurt per 100g = 27.7p

Petit Filous – 6 x 47g pot yoghurt, creates 24g empty plastic packaging. Costs: £1.40, or 2 packs for £2 (same offer as above, also £1 in Co-op) – cost of yoghurt per 100g = 35.5p

Yeo Valley – 1 x 450g pot yoghurt, creates 13g empty plastic packaging. Costs: £1.50, or 2 packs for £2 (same again from Asda, also £1 in Co-op for any flavour) – cost of yoghurt per 100g = 22p

A slight downside of course is having to serve a portion of the big tub in a bowl, but there’s less washing up of annoying plastic for recycling and the ecobrick, with the added bonus that I get to eat some too. Sometime I even get fed it. “Mummy want yog yog?” Definitely no photos of that being shared any time soon.

I can’t quite fathom how to work out the savings per week on this, but it’s definitely cheaper and worth it for the plastic saving alone. Someone did suggest having a go at making my own yoghurt, which is a thought indeed – although I fear that these kinds of missions (similar to DIY deodorant) would have a detrimental impact on the amount of CBeebies viewing that goes on in this house. Maybe we’ll do it together one day as messy play… do I get extra smug mummy points for that? Anyone want to come over and help?

Here’s some photos of weighed plastic to prove I did this properly (NB the outer packaging of the big pot of Yeo Valley is cardboard so should go into the recycling separately).

The Great Deodorant Experiment

I’ve decided that each time something runs out, I’m going to attempt to replace it with a zero-waste or plastic-free alternative. Or consider whether it actually needs replacing at all, or whether whatever it is can be sourced second-hand. Sorry, obtained. “Sourced” is a bit of an overused word at the moment, in my humble opinion. Like “curated”.

So my plastic-packaged roll on deodorant ran out last week. (I usually have two on the go, one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom, so I’m not stinky, don’t worry). The packaging can go into our local Terracycle collection – there is some skepticism about Terracyle, but they do promise to never landfill or incinerate any of the waste that they collect and have a variety of programmes, so until further research convinces me otherwise, I’m a fan.

I’ve decided to try a natural deodorant – I’m not at all sure I believe the Daily Mail type stuff about the chemicals in deodorants causing cancer, but this is on my ever-expanding list of things to read up more about. Critically, though, this product is “zero waste” – the packaging is 100% biodegradable cardboard, which I think means it can be composted. The truly zero-waste method, of course, would be to make your own, like this, but I think that perhaps my life is too short and also, the boy only naps once a day and there’s a limit to how much CBeebies can be permitted, even in the name of planet-saving.

So the plastic-free option is of course staggeringly expensive (£7) in comparison to a plastic roll on from a recognised brand, which costs between £1 and £2 depending on brand, shop and any ongoing offers.

However, the product information promises great things in terms of longevity:

” Don’t be put off by the size (40ml), these bad boys are small but MIGHTY! One little tube should keep you going for a few months. If you look more closely at your plastic deodorant you’ll find most of its size is its packaging, a bit like those ‘big’ bags of crisps that are only half full!! “

So I have roped in a wiling friend to participate in an experiment to test out the cost-effectiveness of this choice. On the day I start using my 40ml tea tree oil and lemongrass natural deodorant, she will start using a new 50ml roll-on (this one, if you’re interested), and we will see which one runs out first! Will the natural one last 7 times as long as the plastic-packaged one? Only time will tell…

Thank goodness for friends who humour me.

Vegan date night

We went on an almost entirely Grandma-facilitated date night earlier in the week. Babysitting services provided by Grandma, and Cafe Rouge vouchers provided with Grandma’s Tesco Clubcard points.

I decided, as an experiment, to see how easy it would be, and also how “fun”, to have a fully vegan meal.

Like I said in my last post, the vegan issue is on my mind at the moment and I am doing some reading about it. We are definitely not considering making the leap in any full-time sense, but the flexitarian/part-time vegan concept holds some attraction to me.

I had the pea and mint tortelloni as a starter (the ONLY vegan starter option on the menu) and it was really nice. I don’t think I would want to eat its equivalent as a main course, and I still have some work to do on accepting the concept of pasta without cheese on top, but it was enjoyable.

On ordering the main course, though, it was a bit more challenging – I could have had pea and asparagus risotto, but didn’t really want more peas, or vegetable tagine – but I really wanted a burger. (I actually really wanted a steak with blue cheese sauce, but hey ho. All in the name of the blog.)

The spicy chickpea burger is marked on the menu as vegan, but the accompaniments (frites or sweet potato frites) are only marked as dairy-free. So I asked the waiter what the issue was here to make the chips non-vegan. He didn’t seem too thrilled to be asked, and came back eventually to tell me that there were sometimes products containing eggs cooked in the same fryers so they couldn’t guarantee the chips were fully vegan.

I ordered the sweet potato frites anyway, as I’m not a purist and not even an actual proper vegan, so refusing them on that basis seemed a bit extreme. They were quite disappointing and under-cooked. The burger was okay, a bit too spicy for me though – I am a huge spice wuss. I’m kind of falling out of love with Cafe Rouge anyway.

So my conclusions are that eating out in restaurants which aren’t specialty vegan is probably quite boring and quite hard work for vegans. It’s also really hard work to find out what various restaurants’ policies are regarding using higher welfare animal products – although the British Hen Welfare Trust has a good go at it here in relation to eggs. If anyone can recommend any good vegan restaurants in South East London for us to check out, that would be ace.

Anyway, here’s a badly-lit and non-Instagram-worthy picture of my sad chickpea burger, with £1.50’s worth of extra smashed avo for good hipster measure. (I cropped out my husband’s succulent roast chicken in the background). Food for thought.

Eggies!

We eat a lot of eggs. Our son is particularly enthusiastic about them – he will sit in his high chair at lunchtime yelling “eggiesh!!!” until his omelette is served up. He also gets quite excited about helping to “do mixing!” for scrambled eggs.

We also read a lot of books about farms. We are teaching our son, through these books, that farms are like the picture above – spacious, green and happy places (although I’m a bit worried about the proximity of those cats to the hen house – if they’re anything like our #notvegan cat, those plump chickens won’t last long).

I decided a long time ago, at my first Rise Up Singing camp (an amazing singing camp on the edge of Dartmoor, where I’ve learnt a lot about community, sustainable living and being a part-time hippy) to try really hard not to eat animals who’ve had a miserable life. This has been quite hard to stick to, while keeping budgetary constraints in mind and also the need for convenience when working 100,000 hours a week as an NHS manager, or more recently when spending every waking moment trying to stop a toddler from maiming himself. But we have recently made some decisions on this; this post is about eggs in particular.

So, just in case you’re interested, a brief history of welfare issues for egg production is as follows:

2012 saw the EU banning “barren” battery cages for hens. Hens are still allowed to be kept in “enriched”cages, with supposedly more room to scratch and nest, and places to perch. But Compassion in World Farming’s investigations show that the reality of this system is still a huge amount of suffering for hens: overcrowding causes feather-pecking, most hens are painfully debeaked and they have limited space to carry out natural behaviours such as washing, wing flapping and dust-bathing. Approximately 58% of all chickens farmed in the EU are within caged systems. If you think this should no longer be allowed, you can support the End the Cage Age campaign here.

Going back to 2004, the UK introduced a mandatory labelling scheme to identify the farming method used, and this led to an increase in demand for higher welfare eggs. 60% of UK eggs are now cage free – either barn eggs (in barns with no access outdoors but no cages), free range or organic.

BUT – and here’s the rub. How free range is your free range egg? Possibly not very. “Multi-tier” free range hens are a thing – basically they live in multi-storey metal layers in a barn, with a limited amount of exits to the outside, which are often blocked off by dominant hens. Over-crowding is a major issue; there is no limit on flock size, as is the case for organic farming. Beak trimming is also commonly practiced. This article is a grim read but probably represents the reality of a lot of “free range” chicken farming, where less than 10% of the hens are outside at any given time, and some are never able to go outside at all.

So we have decided to only buy organic – unless we can be completely assured of the welfare standards of the farm supplying the free range eggs. This takes a lot of effort and research and I think is only really possible if you personally know the farm (difficult in zone 3), or the shop-keeper (maybe possible in a health food shop or green grocer – I’m working on this in our locale).

The cheapest organic eggs I’ve found are from Aldi at 20.83p each – vs. 12.33p each for free range and 7.9p for eggs from caged hens. If you buy 12 eggs per week, switching from caged to organic would cost you an extra £1.55 per week, and switching from free range to organic would cost you an extra £1.03. Maths is not my strong point, but I think this means that organic eggs are over 250% more expensive than caged.

We’ve managed to afford this switch by making other savings, mainly by significantly reducing how much meat we eat and cooking a lot of Jack Monroe‘s amazing recipes. It’s a matter of priorities, and every decision has an impact on other decisions – every action has a reaction.

I am really thinking hard about the whole vegan concept – not ready to write about this yet, but give it time! I am going to have vegan dinner tonight at Cafe Rouge, so follow me on Twitter for exciting food photos! @TheEverydayRad1

(No Instagram, ever. Promise)

Another little thought about dish washing

Dish washing. Exciting stuff this weekend, isn’t it?

We have possibly the world’s most expensive dishwasher. At least it felt like that when we bought it, but to be fair it is amazing and super-efficient. According to Miele, it’s 10% more efficient than the EU energy efficiency class A+++. We were lucky to be able to afford it (bought in considerably less lean times than we are in these days).

I’ve finally researched, and found to be factual, my long-held assumption that dishwashers use less energy, water and soap than hand-washing. See also this Guardian article, which suggests that the carbon footprint calculation is slightly more marginal, and of course only applies if you run the dishwasher full and look after it so it lasts a long time. We run the Eco setting overnight, which is definitely the greenest option.

But – and here’s the fun bit – quite often at the end of the evening there’s still stuff to wash up that won’t fit in the dishwasher and it’s bloody annoying. So I thought that something which would help is to keep the same mug, teaspoon (3 cups of coffee a day here), water and squash glasses on the go all day. Which might mean there’s more space leftover for dinner pans and stuff, so less late night washing up.

I’m a genius, I know. Here’s a picture of Friday’s selection just to convince you.

(Also note the hidden implication here of non-plastic toddler crockery – virtuous bamboo can’t go in the dishwasher. Also the need to wash out all the recycling and the plastic that we put in the Ecobrick. Oooh what’s an Ecobrick, I hear you cry? Wait for it… or have a look at the website if you can’t wait.)