Way back in the dim mists of time, when the small one napped for two hours a day in his bed and this blog was the only writing I was doing, I did a series called Saturday Switch. This was a little summary (weekly initially… then, not so often) of an easy (ish) switch we’ve done at home to live more sustainably.
This was the first one, about washing up, and I was SO happy at how many views it got! Something about my dish washing habits seemed to capture the imagination of thousands. Well, hundreds. Well, 46, actually. But I was excited at the time, and still am at every view I get, to be honest. (Read to the end of the post to see just why I’m so bloody grateful to you lot for reading my ramblings for the last year).
Anyway. We bought these plastic-free scrubby things over a year ago, and they’re faring quite well.
Admittedly one of them is looking a bit scraggy, but I think a bit of a trim will sort it out and they have plenty of service left in them. And according to my previous calculations, we should have broken even on this financially somewhere around the year point (we never bought the cheapest disposable pan scrubbers, but I don’t think we changed them weekly…)
Alongside this, I’m still trying to avoid using 27 mugs per day, and just sticking to one mug, one glass and one tea spoon, in a bid to make the most expensive dishwasher in the world maximally efficient and eco-friendly. More about the original revelation on this here. (Also, I got it wrong about bamboo crockery and cutlery going in the dishwasher. Seems that it’s fine. Not so fine when it gets chucked across the room, but that’s another story).
We’ve also become Splosh devotees. I did as much due diligence as I could on the various options available for dishwasher tablets and we tried the Splosh ones and really liked them. Yes, they are three times the price of Aldi dishwasher tablets, and yes, in this case going plastic-free is a sign of privilege. I try to remember this when I write this stuff, because I know for some people it’s not possible to make these switches, especially at the moment when a lot of people’s income has been affected by the pandemic.
And this is why I’m not doing a PLASTIC-FREE JULY post because I’m an epic ECO BLOGGER blah blah. Because for most people, the absolutist nature of this is a load of crap, frankly. We’re not going to go completely plastic-free. We couldn’t afford it and my brain can’t cope with it. But little by little we will get better.
So if you can afford it, or you can cut back elsewhere to make it happen, then I do recommend Splosh. We like their laundry detergent and cleaning stuff too. The washing up liquid and hand wash is a bit annoying and gloopy (it comes in recyclable refill pouches that you mix with warm water) but it’s effective and it smells nice, so we are persevering. And I’m pretty convinced that in it’s diluted form, it doesn’t kill fish.
So I think that might be the final chapter of the dish washing story. Hope you enjoyed it!
Meanwhile I’m getting quite a bit of paid writing work now. So a massive thank you to the followers of this blog – writing this stuff gave me the confidence to pitch for paid stuff, and it’s going well, so I’m grateful for every view, every like, every comment and every share.
Also, this old chestnut from the Everyday Radical greatest hits got retweeted last night by The Skeptical Ob, so I’m experiencing something of a surge in views. I will try to write something equally controversial and shouty soon, so as not to disappoint any new followers!
I’m just revisiting some old posts on the blog, for nostalgic kicks. This one was the first post I ever wrote with actual content, after the intro post when I started the blog. The bit about my son yelling “banannnnash!” has made me laugh, as he tells us off now if we add “sh” to the ends of words as he used to say them – “it’s eggies, mummy, not eggiesh!”
We stopped going to the village greengrocer for absolutely ages during lock down (I say “village” – I mean, not-quite-gentrified-yet high street in zone three). It’s a very small shop and it remained quite well stocked throughout the panic-buying stage, as far as we could tell from the local grapevine, so had huge queues for a good few weeks. Then we felt like we couldn’t go in there with the pushchair, due to the risk of things being touched/licked by the small one. And I honestly missed it so much, our almost daily little trips out to buy brocoli and bananas and cabbage. And chat to another grown-up for five minutes.
So we did supermarket online click and collect shopping for a while, including fruit and vegetables, but the plastic just depressed me, and my husband refused to partake in any further ecobrick-related activities. So we got ourselves sorted out with a veg box. The first one we bought was super expensive, from a New Covent Garden supplier who in normal times supplies restaurants. And it wasn’t organic or plastic-free. So I switched to Abel and Cole and I have to say I’m pretty impressed so far. Their Twitter help person is amazing and has been super-responsive to all my newbie queries. Their packaging is almost entirely plastic-free – either small cardboard punnets which can go in the recycling, or compostable “non-plastic” bags, or the bigger cardboard boxes can be returned via the delivery driver for reuse. The fruit and veg is all organic and tastes amazing. The scheme is flexible so you can swap different boxes for different weeks and skip weeks if you want to, and add top-up produce. It’s varied so you have to be prepared to learn how to cook new stuff – beetroot and squash surprise, anyone? And while it’s not all local/British produce, everything is shipped on water rather than transported by air, which does reduce the carbon footprint considerably (their all-British veg box is unavailable at the moment). Honestly I’m not sure I’m brave enough right now to just eat local, which I guess involves a lot of turnips and swede, but maybe this is something to aim towards.
BUT, it’s undeniably more expensive than Asda. Going plastic-free is a privilege and going organic is a luxury. I’ve written about this before, here. I just cashed up the latest Abel and Cole veg box contents vs. what it would cost in Asda, and it is twice the price. Maybe the same produce would be equivalent price, or cheaper, at a local market, but that in itself requires the relative privilege of being able to food shop during the day on a weekday (i.e. not having to be at work, not having to drag multiple children around with you, not being scared of going outside in the current context of lock down being eased but people behaving like Covid never happened).
We are back in the habit of going to the local greengrocer now more regularly, since the team there protested to me how much they missed seeing the small one (did I mention how cute and funny he is?) So maybe we will scale back slightly on the deliveries, but either way we are accepting paying a plastic-free premium for what we believe is the right course of action, and cutting down our spends elsewhere to accommodate that.
I’m wondering, as usual, what else we can do? I feel like I want to revisit all the protests and letter campaigns to supermarkets that grew out of the outrage generated from the War on Plastic program which aired this time last year. Did it make any difference? What else can be done? Does anyone care anymore? The state of Bournemouth beach this week suggests that a LOT of people don’t care. More of that in a few days.
Meanwhile, tell me about your fruit and vegetable habits in the comments. And your favourite way to cook rainbow chard…
It’s just over a year ago that I started writing this blog… as is tradition, I mark anniversaries and special occasions about a week late on this blog, and I’m six days overdue. Here’s the inaugural post from 15th June 2019.
It strikes me as a bit idealistic and naive, reading it now, a year on; especially considering the many challenges 2020 has brought us so far. It’s not easy to change your lifestyle to be more sustainable within our culture the way it is now, with so many messages telling us to spend and consume and upgrade. In terms of our household, we have made some progress, though not as much as I’d hoped (but then I’m a perfectionist with a strong drive mentality and I give myself a hard time every day for not doing enough to save the world, alongside the usual mum guilt). So as the weeks pass and last year’s posts pop up, I will be revisiting them them and updating on how we’ve done with each change and exploring the possible next steps we might take.
This blog may not have made me rich yet, but there’s 180 of you out there following me, so thanks to all of you for your support! I’ve learnt this year that building a sizeable blog following takes a huge amount of time and commitment, and there’s some promotional activity I don’t really want to engage with (I have no desire to write sponsored posts, for example!) and I haven’t got time to spam the hell out of Twitter for follows and views and all that. So it’s a slow burn, but I hope that those of you who read it find it helpful and interesting, and maybe funny sometimes – I make myself laugh, anyway.
I started this blog after the XR London protests last year, but I was already primed to be thinking about an output for my writing, thanks to a long and brilliant chat with my friend John as we walked along a hillside on the island of Paros, Greece. So thank you John also for giving me the encouragement to get started with writing! I’m exploring a bunch of other writing avenues at the moment, and one day someone might even pay me for writing something, and that will be cause for celebration at Everyday Radical Towers, for sure!
I’m going to mark the start of year two of the blog by writing something a bit ranty about Primark tomorrow – not exactly what you might imagine, so watch this space.
Thanks again for the follows and shares and comments and likes and encouragement and challenges and everything, dear readers! Let’s crack on with saving the world, one yoghurt pot at a time.
I was prompted by someone on Twitter to write about this – it’s been on the (very long) list for a while now.
It’s a bit of a thorny issue and something which gets quite a lot of discussion already – it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to say anything that has never been said before on this, but you never know.
Here’s the question. Is it the premise of the middle classes only (and presumably those richer than the middle class) to make plastic-free choices? Is it possible to be poor and still go plastic-free? When, for example, a plastic-free deodorant costs maybe two or three times the price of a plastic roll-on bought in a supermarket? (I tried, I really did… I will do a final report on the Great Deodorant Experiment one day). When supermarkets charge more for loose fruit and vegetables than they do for the produce wrapped in plastic? (This article discusses why that might be the case).
A couple of things have happened recently which have made me think about this issue, particularly in relation to fruit and vegetable shopping. It is of course a much wider issue than just food choices, but I’ve seen some eco-influencers (with sexy Instagram accounts and monetised blogs, so they must be doing something right) saying that they have massively reduced their food spend since implementing changes to live more sustainably. They manage to shop mainly organic and plastic-free (including, as one of them mentioned, the fortnightly Ocado shop…) and still save money.
So here’s our little story. As I posted way back many moons ago when this blog was in its infancy, we like to go to our local greengrocers for our fruit and veg as much as possible, to get predominantly organic and plastic-free produce. I very rarely buy produce in the supermarket now. In normal times, going to the greengrocer is an almost daily outing – the small one loves it, I get to speak to a grown-up, there’s no plastic wrapping to deal with, everyone’s a winner. But at the moment it’s hard for us to manage these trips – I can’t take the boy in the buggy and maintain social distancing and safety, as he’s still small and touches or licks things and it’s just too stressful. My husband can’t easily go during the daytime and the shop is running reduced opening hours to protect their staff, which is totally understandable. So we’ve been buying fruit and veg from the supermarket and oh my god the plastic is a pain in the arse to put in the ecobrick. So in the spirit of my recent ecobricking resolutions, I decided to do something about it and order us a fruit and veg box. And here it is, in all its glory.
Critical point to mention – it’s from a New Covent Garden supplier, who normally sell produce to restaurants, but in the current situation they are using their supply chain to get produce directly to customers at home. So they’re not marketing themselves as plastic-free, local or seasonal. This medium sized fruit and veg box cost £32 and to be fair, it is amazing quality and will probably last us nearly two weeks. BUT. I put the same produce into the online shopping calculator on the Asda website and it’s half the price. Also, it’s not completely plastic-free, as you can see in the picture. (Only the salad bag, herbs, cucumber, bananas and some of the potatoes were in plastic though, and of course in the supermarket nearly all of it would be in plastic packaging.) And it’s not seasonal or local.
Other cheaper veg boxes are available – for example the Oddbox equivalent medium box is £14.99. This is a brilliant initiative to reduce food waste by selling imperfect produce rejected by supermarkets. It’s local and seasonal and all packaging is recyclable. But they only cover the London area and they deliver overnight – I want to try them out but I have concerns that our box would get nicked or ravaged by foxes before we got to it. Riverford is also cheaper and much better on the plastic and local produce front. But they’re running a waiting list at the moment and I believe you have to commit to a regular order. So there is more research to be done.
But, back to the privilege point. We all have to buy food. Most people buy food in a supermarket because it’s a cheap option – Mr Tesco et al have massive economies of scale that smaller shops struggle to replicate. We also shop in supermarkets because it’s easy – it’s all there in one place, they’re open long hours and you don’t have to think too much or make lots of decisions. So, in my view, privilege is about more than just money. Sure, you can probably find a veg box which is a similar price point to supermarkets, and maybe a refill shop where some things are cheaper and some things are more expensive, so it evens out – remember my surprisingly cheap organic thyme? So much of this, though, depends on time (see what I did there?) and choice, and that’s the crux of privilege. Time to do the research for the best veg box, and time to go to four different shops each week to get what you need, not to mention the financial head room to pay the plastic-free premium where it does exist. (Do families need to be in a position to have a stay at home parent to actually pull this off? Usually a woman? Is plastic a feminist issue…? Why does every post I write lead me to though processes for about another ten?)
And interestingly, the current situation where it’s been hard to get hold of certain foods seems to caused this particular penny to drop for some eco-influencers – those hardcore anti-plastic folk who couldn’t get to their local zero waste shop for rice, so had to buy it in plastic from Asda. Their choice has been taken away from them. So maybe this will engender some more empathy and understanding for people who work full-time and can’t fit in multiple shopping trips each week, or people who have no childcare support and can’t drag multiple kids to multiple shops, or are so frazzled by their life that they can’t work out if a veg box would be cheaper than Asda and they haven’t got time to do the admin anyway.
Just like we are NOT all in the same boat in relation to lockdown, we are not all in the same boat in how we can respond to the challenges of plastic pollution and climate change, and it’s important to remember that, now more than ever.
And here’s a little anonymous lockdown poem which has been doing the rounds on social media which I don’t hate, just for good measure (I’ve cut some bits out where I’ve seen various versions that don’t quite make sense).
WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT … I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.
For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.
Some are not getting on with family and domestic abuse is rife…we never know what goes on behind closed doors.
Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.
Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.
We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.
Web design and technology is not my strongest skill – I like writing and researching and thinking, mainly. But I’ve had a sneaking suspicion for a while that the Everyday Radical website was looking a bit rubbish. Like all writers, I would love more people to read my work (I think some of it at least is a valuable contribution to the eco issues debate, and people keep telling me it’s quite good). But having a super basic blog home page doesn’t help with that mission. So I am learning VERY SLOWLY how to use WordPress to its full potential. I’ve got a long way to go, and very limited time these days, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve redesigned the blog so it looks a bit sexier. And also, WIDGETS! (These are little WordPress features that you can add to your site to aid navigation, provide links to your social media etc.) I thought they were very complicated, but actually they’re quite straightforward.
New on the blog page, down the right hand side – over here >>>>>>>>
You can click to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter. The “follow my blog” button is easier to find and there’s a list of recent posts, and an archive menu by month too. And categories! So if you read a post about washing up, for example, and you want to read some more of my ramblings about kitchen-related eco switches, you can find the category and find all the blog posts. This was pretty fun to put together, sorting through the archive. Weirdly, the dish washing posts are some of the most popular posts I’ve written. My readership must be washing up liquid geeks.
Anyway, I’m pretty excited about the new look, and the new features. Let me know what you think. More to come when I learn how to create pages – not the same thing as posts, it seems!
Briefly too, on the subject of technology. I wrote about my email hoarding tendencies back in January, with a promise to change my ways due to the carbon footprint of storing thousands of emails. Also there was a significant mental load of having 5500 emails in my inbox, it felt like a massive to do list that would never get cleared. I promised you guys I would get it down to less than 100 by the end of March.
So as of today, it’s at 302. Which feels like progress… I also deleted a massive amount of archived work emails form years ago which I will never need. But I also have to confess that I moved a LOT out of my inbox into sub folders. I’m not going to tell you how many but I’ve just counted them up and I’m a bit shocked, as there’s still an enormous bunch of stuff sitting on servers whirring away because I’ve got some odd hoarding disorder and I can’t bring myself to delete them. Most of them I am saving for a reason (quite a lot, for example, are idea leads for this blog), but the reality of how much I still have left is a bit of a wake up call. I am really interested in the psychology of hoarding, so perhaps I need to have a bit of a closer look at myself! (Digital hoarding is a thing, by the way – not much studied, but definitely a thing, which is probably on the increase).
Back to the climate impact point though. Sending and receiving emails and storing files on the cloud all has a carbon footprint, due to the servers that it’s all held on and the power they use, the energy used to run computers themselves and send and receive messages. Sure, per message it’s microscopic, but it all adds up. So I repeat my challenge to you all, folks – use your lockdown downtime (if you have any!) to clear out your mailboxes and your saved files and unsubscribe to mailing lists that you’re not really reading (they just encourage you to buy stuff you don’t need anyway). You will feel mentally cleansed, I promise you, and help to save the planet too. Every little helps, as they say (and I bet you’ve got some emails in your archive from them too!)
I’m not quite sure what the world is coming to, really and truly. I’m going to try not to write any more angsty stuff about Coronavirus (I published this on my other blog earlier in the week, just to get all the feels out). I actually feel weirdly calm and focussed today, I just wish “they” (or “them upstairs”, as we affectionately call the “powers that be” in this house, in remembrance of how the first team I ever managed used to refer to the faceless Execs on the top corridor) would make a decision about schools and nursery soon, so I don’t have to. What else can we do? A wise man in the queue at the greengrocers today advised me (from a respectful distance) to just “keep putting one foot in front of the other”.
Husband is on day 2 of working from home, and other than predictable issues with broadband speed (because half of London – the lucky half – is now working from home), it’s going ok. We haven’t killed each other yet and the toddler will get used to Daddy being here but not here, somehow, I’m sure. We are LUCKY. He has the kind of job where he can work from home easily and still get paid, and would get full sick pay if he got ill. We don’t have to go on the tube. We have a fair supply of food in the house (although I’m worried about the Mini Egg stocks).
But we are, like many others I suspect, running out of loo roll. Well, I say that, we have a few rolls left, but it won’t last long and there’s NONE in the shops round here. I’m not going to start using substitues like wipes or kitchen roll, because this is going to cause the sewerage system to break down, and we do NOT need that right now.
So to eke out our supply, I am experimenting with “family cloth”… this is a thing which I’ve been aware of for a while from the various eco-groups that I’m part of and I’ve always been kind of curious about it, but never actually took the plunge. It’s basically a reusable, washable alternative to toilet paper, tipped to be both a frugal and eco-conscious choice. And of COURSE, there are beautiful Instagrammable ones available on Etsy etc. There are also plenty of people out there who use flannels, old clothes cut up and hemmed, etc.
So I confess that in my naive days at the beginning of this blog, when I thought I could change the world, I bought a pack of Cheeky Wipes because I was planning on giving up baby wipes. Reader, I just unpacked the box yesterday. There’s a slightly drawn-out description of how to use family cloth here – basically, if you prefer to use them wet, it’s a bit more admin, and you have to have something sealed to put them in. I’m using the Cheeky Wipes mucky box with a bit of water and essential oils in. And I am only using them for number ones… so they’re not hideous, they’re going in the wash in a separate laundry bag which is what I also use for these, and I chuck them in a warm wash with towels or sheets or whatever.
Now, I have quite a low ick factor so this doesn’t bother me, but it reaalllly bothers some people (this is quite funny, also this – this is a topic which seems to polarise people, for sure). I’m actually more interested in whether it’s actually better for the environment.
This article argues that a bidet is the most environmentally friendly option, but it’s not a common feature in our UK plumbing set-ups. You can buy little squeezy bottle things, but honestly, what’s the carbon footprint of a plastic bottle vs. a year’s supply of recycled toilet paper? Is recycled paper actually better than paper from sustainable forests? I don’t know, in all honesty, and these are difficult things for normal, non-specialist people to make balanced decisions on. What I know for sure though is that the production of flowery, organic cotton family cloth with poppers and a pretty hamper to store them in must have the equivalent footprint of a LOT of bog roll.
So, folks, my advice if you’re running low is to use what you’ve already got – old flannels, tear up some old towels, t-shirts or muslins. Try it, start with number ones and work up to number twos as the apocalypse nears. Find a bucket with a lid or an ice cream tub or something like that to put the used ones in, you won’t die of it, I promise. And enjoy the feeling of smugness when you see people fighting in the aisles over the last pack of loo roll.
Don’t take the last pack of Mini Eggs in my local Co-op though. I’m watching you, you bastards.
(Hope that’s some light relief. Love to all in these weird days)
So there’s quite a lot of you still out there reading and interacting, which is motivating me to keep writing! I dropped a link to this article in my last post – “Be more Greta: seven ways to help reduce your environmental impact”. So I thought I should actually read it properly and use it as a springboard to maybe relaunch #SaturdaySwitch or at least trigger some thoughts about next steps on the eco journey. I’ve been feeling pretty jaded of late, and I know that reading articles like this, while taking a forensic view of my family’s day-to-day life, does help bring things into focus.
So. How are we doing? (NB this list isn’t Greta’s, it’s from WWF. The “Greta bandwagon” has of course been the subject of a gazillion column inches and maybe I will write about that one day too, and try to fathom why a bunch of white, middle-aged men who made all their money from trashing the planet are so afraid of a teenage girl who gives NO shits whatsover about who she upsets…)
Switch to clean energy. Check. We switched to Green Network Energy last year. I don’t fully understand how the National Grid works with power generated from different sources, but this explains reasonably well why no power company can guarantee that every kilowatt of power that enters your home is from a renewable source. We don’t have a smart meter yet but I would like to get one – partly to try to shave more money off the bills. We do have gas heating and hobs, and I know gas is worse for the environment but my understanding of the physics of all this is very limited. So perhaps this is something to research further. I have a new slow cooker I’m keen to try out, and running this on electricity may well be cheaper and better for the environment than prolonged hob cooking.
Ethical banking – I’ve just kept my eyes tight shut on this one for a long time. I bank with Barclays mainly, although our joint account is with First Direct. I have no clue what either of their investment policies are, although I expect Barclays to be pretty dire. I also have no idea whether my pension pots are invested ethically. Work to do here.
Sustainable food – there’s nothing new to me here really. Less meat and dairy, more seasonal and local food. It often falls into the “too difficult” category to really nail this, especially when trying to budget, but this is true:
[food production is ]“a major driver of climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. It’s responsible for more than 60% of biodiversity loss worldwide and almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Must try harder on this one.
Be a conscious shopper. I’m mainly interpreting this as trying not to be a shopper as much as possible. I’m following a few No Spend/Buy Nothing 2020 challenges on social media at the moment. People have varying motives for wanting to take this on – often financial as well as focusing on sustainability. It’s been a challenge over Christmas, to be sure – I’m still reflecting on this… It’s hard to resist the urge to buy new stuff that you know your very cute two-year-old will absolutely love… But equally I feel sick whenever I think about the kind of planet he’s going to grow up on if we don’t get to grips with this, and fast.
Reduce your waste – there’s lots here I’m already doing, especially in terms of reducing food waste, batch cooking, planning meals etc. The article is a bit disjointed here though, as it veers from talking about low level individual decisions, to stressing the importance of product design fitting within circular economies, to enable things to be reused, recycled or repurposed. I feel like we get lost in the individualistic view of saving the world, making heroes out of ourselves and agonising about the best carrier bags to use. But actually, the sweeping changes have to come from governments and big corporations. See the final point…
Make space for nature – I am crap at this. We have a garden but it’s bare except for lawn. No time, no knowledge or skills. Come spring/summer I might be able to do something about this, but most likely not, as we will be hopefully mid house build by then. Eeek. Must not think too much about this, or I will lose my mind. Maybe I will grow some herbs indoors. We are also robust supporters of our local parks and woodland. Which also helps prevent the impending madness.
Speak up – as above, one person giving up single use carrier bags isn’t enough. I’ve been sceptical about the value of writing to MPs, signing petitions etc., but it certainly can’t do any harm… I’m going to try to be a bit more strategic about this and chat to some friends who are more active in this area than me about what actually has the most traction to make a difference.
So. Overall I think this article is a bit weird and disjointed, and taking a bit of a classic tick-box new year’s resolution approach. No mention of reducing car use, stopping flying, not much about single use plastic.
I wonder what Greta would actually say? No one is too small to make a difference, sure, but some people are big enough to make a huge difference, and putting pressure on them to change is where her energy is being directed, rather than bickering on Facebook zero waste groups about fabric wrapping paper.
Next week – some vegan(ish) meal planning, another visit to the refill shop and maybe I will have done some research about banking. Maybe a #SaturdaySwitch tomorrow too.
I ran out of thyme this week. Sorry folks, it’s just too good a pun not to write about.
I’ve got quite a respectable stash of these herb and spice jars. I think it’s loosely based on a list from one of Jack Monroe‘s books of essential ingredients to have in your store cupboard. As someone who’s always striving to cook from scratch more creatively, it’s handy to rarely have to buy extra herbs and spices to add to recipes I’m trying out. They’re all supermarket bought though – the glass jars are recyclable but the lids almost definitely not. The label says “check locally”, but even if they were the right kind of plastic to be recycled, I expect they would get lost in the sorting machines at recycling plants and end up in landfill (I promise I’m going to write some more in the Recycling 101 series soon about all these random recycling thoughts).
My plan has always been to replace things with zero/low waste options as and when they ran out. So off I trooped to SWOP with my empty thyme jar to see what could be done. Sure enough, there’s a herbs and spices section, so I refilled my little jar using one of their funnels from a big jar of dried organic Spanish thyme… and held my breath at the till, expecting to pay a major eco-premium (plus an organic premium).
A 17g jar of own brand dried thyme in Asda costs 69p. A Schwarz brand-named packet (now in cardboard, not glass jars anymore it seems) is £1.37 for 11g. My refilled jar (not completely full but probably close to 17g) was 35p. So the lesson, boys and girls, is that eco and low waste is NOT ALWAYS more expensive… it’s pretty hard to predict which products are going to be cheaper and which are going to shock you with their prices, but I guess it’s all a learning game. And learning takes thyme. Ahaaaa. (I’m here all week).
Meanwhile, it’s now October! (Hurray for autumn!) Which means that Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember campaign is over. I wrote about this here – essentially it was a campaign to encourage people not to buy new clothes for a month, to raise awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion. It was quite interesting watching the social media chat around this. For huge amounts of people, not buying anything new for a month is not a challenge at all. Loads of people people very rarely or never buy new clothes, for financial reasons as well as environmental. But some people are really interested in fashion and really want to wear the latest trends. I find this hard to understand to be honest, but no doubt there are some people who would find my book collection weird and extreme, and see it as a waste of trees (this is another post I will write one day – but I am procrastinating on it in a BIG way…) Anyway, I think Oxfam got the promo slightly wrong and were mainly preaching to the converted, but I’m not sure what the alternative is, and anything which raises awareness of the harmful impact of fast fashion on the environment is of course a good thing.
We were aiming for Buy Nothing September, or ever again… so how is my pledge to buy nothing new for myself or the small one until the end of the year going?
Well, pretty good actually. I’ve bought groceries, toiletries, food and medicine for the cat. I’ve bought some more clothes on eBay for the small one – he’s moving into the next size bracket so everything is getting too small all at the same time. I also bought myself a second hand copy of the novel of Les Miserables to read in my copious spare time, after going to see the staged concert of the musical last weekend at the Gielgud theatre. And just as an aside – OMactualG – beg, borrow or steal a ticket to get the chance to see this if you can, it was amazing. And it got me thinking about revolution and rebellion and being more radical, hence my desire to sit quietly at home and read the book…
Anyway. It’s been Mr Everyday Radical’s birthday this month, and I did buy him a new book – The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells, which is about the impact climate change is going to have on our planet unless we take radical action. Uplifting stuff. I must confess I have a bad habit of buying him books as presents that I want to read myself. But that book is the sum total of new consumer goods that have entered our house in the month of September. (My mum also bought new shoes and some socks for the small one – does that count? Generous Grandma privilege remains sacred, I think).
Then on 1st October my son’s buggy broke on the bus, I had a huge meltdown and had to buy him a new travel buggy at Mothercare to use while we get it fixed. I also bought him a fluffy onesie for the winter in the sale. Because I buy new stuff when stressed. I also bought a Wispa to share with my mum, to help us recover from the bus trauma. The small one’s 2nd birthday was also 1st October, and he’s had some lovely presents (some new, and plastic – which is fine by me because they’re not single use, they will be passed on and I refuse to ban people from buying him stuff because that would make me mean and a rude twat, frankly). But I think on balance we are doing pretty well.
I’m working up to Christmas… I want to buy this for him SO much, because he would LOVE it, but it feels like it would be practically against my religion. Hmmm. I was going to do another installment of Motherhood, Consumption and Guilt one day wasn’t I? Watch this space.
So if you’ve been reading my blog from the start, you might have seen my earlier posts about dish washing: this one, the inaugural #SaturdaySwitch, where we switched from plastic washing up sponges to cotton scourers, and this one about limiting washing up to actualise the eco-benefits of using an efficient dishwasher (I thought this post was staggeringly dull, but it had some of the highest hits of all my blog posts – so you guys must be quite excited about dish washing, or really liked the photo of my favourite mug).
We’re up to PART 7 of Saturday Switch now, although I forgot to number two of them, and a couple have happened on a Sunday. The idea is that I’m NOT getting rid of all the plastic/non-eco stuff in my house at one fell swoop, spending loads of money but getting to be all smug and Instagrammish about my sustainable life, but I’m gradually making changes as and when I run out of things or get some random inspiration, or get sufficiently irritated by pointless plastic that I feel I have to do something.
Dishwasher tablets have been annoying me for a while. We used to buy the Aldi ones because they are super cheap, but they of course come wrapped in plastic, so I bought some Ecover ones recently which I sort of assumed would NOT come in plastic (clue in the ECO name maybe?), but alas, they are.
So I thought I would attempt some proper research before chucking more money away. As always, there are multiple issues to consider. Are you most bothered about chemical content? (not all chemicals are toxic, remember… water is a chemical compound…) Or animal testing? Or avoiding plastic packaging?
This is a useful article from 2017. In terms of chemicals, those pesky bureaucrats in the EU banned phosphates, which are harmful to aquatic life, from dishwasher detergents in 2017, so nothing that is sold to domestic customers contains them (although it seems that commercial detergents still can contain them – come on bureaucrats, get on it please!). Ecover comes out best of the well-known brands, but despite being a cruelty-free brand itself, a lot of ethically-concerned consumers are now boycotting it since its takeover by Johnson and Johnson, who are still a company which tests on animals.
I’ve seen a lot of talk about smol in eco Facebook groups recently, so I’ve been researching their offering in more detail. The premise is that they deliver packages of very small and concentrated laundry and dishwasher tablets through the post, which are “eco-friendly” and cruelty-free (Leaping Bunny approved). The packaging is 90% recycled plastic and apparently 100% continuously recyclable. I’m not convinced about this, as I keep reading that plastic degrades with each round of recycling and will always end up as something not recyclable, so is always therefore fundamentally destined for landfill, incineration or the ocean. However, I’m not a chemical engineer with a specialist knowledge of plastic, so I can’t be sure! Equally I’m not a chemical engineer who can decipher this. But I feel reasonably confident that it would be an improvement on Ecover and Aldi in terms of plastics and ethics, at the very least.
How about pricing? My rough maths makes Aldi 7p per dishwasher load, Smol 15p per load and Ecover is 24p per load. The other major contender is Ecoleaf, which I’ve been put off buying in shops as it’s so expensive, but it comes in at 15p per load if bought in bulk online.
Splosh is also an interesting offering – they do various other household stuff too (thoughts on this to come another time!), but the dishwasher tablet offering works out at 22p per wash with no plastic casing at all.
So this is actually quite a difficult decision to make.
Ecoleaf – have to buy in bulk in massive cardboard box (heavy for transportation purposes, hard to store, carbon footprint of the cardboard production and recycling is also a consideration), purports to be plant based but the ingredient list actually states that it’s less than 5% plant-based ingredients, and contains “sustainably sourced palm oil” – I sort of don’t believe this exists really, but more research needed as always.
Aldi and Ecover – too much plastic, plus dodgy Ecover ethics (also pending further research)
Smol – probably too much plastic? They say it’s recyclable kerbside but I don’t trust local authorities not to lie about where they’re sending recycling, so I’m trying to reduce our recycling as much as possible without increasing black bin waste. Smol also say you can send the plastic packaging back for reuse, but – FAFF.
Smol and Splosh both appear to be palm oil free, which is something I am trying to introduce into my decision-making too.
I can’t make much sense of the ingredients lists though – do I have any followers who actually understand what chemical names mean? What does “plant-based” really mean? Please do get in touch if you’re out there!
In the mean time, I’m going to order some Splosh tablets because they’re the most convincingly plastic-free in my eyes. And I will let you know how I get on!
None of these decisions are easy, are they? There is so much green-washing about, it feels easier to do nothing, but I do still believe that little by little we can make a difference.
So the weather here has been grim this week, and the toddler has been struck down with toddler-grot lurgy. He’s been that super fun mix of too poorly to go out to playgroups and cough all over other children (whose mothers would tut at me disapprovingly, no doubt), but well enough to be bored and grumpy at home. So we did BAKING. Because I am a wholesome mummy, and all that.
I’ve been agonising recently about our consumption of snack bars, chocolate bars etc. My husband has crisps and a chocolate bar at work most days, and the small one likes the baby crisps, rice cakes and oaty snack bars from Aldi – he calls them cakies and it’s pretty cute really (other brands of toddler snack are available). All the wrappers can go in our local Terracycle collection. But I had a bit of a revelation this week in response to the news that Burger King are going to stop giving away free plastic toys with their kids meals. They are inviting people to bring back unwanted toys to their restaurants to be melted down to make restaurant items such as new trays and play areas. They’re working with a company called Pentatotnic, who develop closed loop recycling solutions and state that no harmful gases will be released into the environment when these plastics are melted. They claim that using recycled polypropylene to make a tray rather than virgin plastic would result in an 88% reduction in total energy consumption and a 70% reduction in carbon emissions.
I think it’s a brilliant move from Burger King, and I hope other chains follow suit, including producers of magazines and comics for kids which all seem to contain plastic tat. And toddler advent calendars – oh my goodness, the volume of plastic is scary (do NOT get me started on Hallowe’en, either).
But Terraycle are in the playground making game too, and I’m sure other similar schemes exist – and it just got me wondering. How many more playgrounds do we need, and what is the actual end point for this material? It’s being re-purposed, great, but it still exists and will exist for an unimaginably long time. We are pouring more and more plastic into these recycling schemes to assuage our consumer guilt, but what we really need to do is turn off the tap.
So, enter the toddler bake-off. I thought it would be a good thing to do to start home baking more of our treats and snacks, to reduce the waste impact. Plus fun and wholesome and all that. So we made chocolate chip cookies yesterday and we had a lot of fun – the small one spent quite a lot of time throwing flour on the floor and smearing his grubby little paw prints all over Daddy’s coffee machine, but he also did some stirring and mixing (one of his favourite things), a bit of pouring and quite a lot of squidging of dough. And we produced 17 of these bad boys.
And they were YUM.
But of course, the majority of the ingredients came in plastic… It kind of feels like one step forward and two steps back!
Butter – mixed material wrapping, not recyclable. Is there butter out there wrapped in recyclable wrapping? Add to the list of things to research.
Self-raising flour and caster sugar – in paper packaging. Hurrah.
Muscovado sugar – in plastic and cardboard packaging.
Milk – plastic bottle, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that milk bottles are high grade plastic and sought after for recycling, so hopefully it will end up actually recycled rather than rotting on a riverbank in Malaysia, but still. I can’t face the admin of glass bottled milk at the moment as we don’t use much, but it’s on the endless list of things to investigate.
Chocolate (not in the picture… hmmm…. wonder why not?) – packaging went into Terracycle bag *facepalm*
Pecan nuts – in plastic, not recyclable.
Baking paper – never researched this but I expect it’s got some sort of plastic in it. So what to do…?
I need to research a few options and check out what baking ingredients I can get at SWOP – my Buy Nothing Group co founder is kindly going to give me some jars to fill. SWOP’s range is great but will I expect be more expensive. So I will keep you posted on this little field trip, when we do it.
Step by step, people. Step by step. Flapjacks next week I think. Or muffins. Or flapjacks. Hmmm. And I will go to the gym. I absolutely will. (What’s the carbon footprint of a gym, I wonder? Endless questions).