Nostalgic vegetables

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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…

Running out of thyme – and the end of #BuyNothing September

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.

Adventures in baking with a grotty toddler

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).

How to green your kitchen part 2 – in which we finally write about Ecobricks

So I’ve been threatening to write about ecobricks for a while, and a discussion on a Facebook group last night prompted me to get on with it, once and for all. I’ve been feeling conflicted about the ecobrick concept for a while, and I’m hoping that writing about it will bring me nearer to a conclusive decision.

Here’s a summary article about the whole ecobrick concept. Essentially, you take all your non-recyclable plastic, chop it up small and shove it into an empty plastic bottle (which has to be clean and scrupulously dry to prevent mould forming), to a specified density. It can then be used as a building block. The idea is that this prevents this plastic from entering landfill, being incinerated (creating CO2 emissions) or ending up in the ocean; effectively, it locks the plastic away from the ecosystem and transforms it into a useful material which is beneficial to the community, and maximises plastic’s durable nature. As I keep on coming back to, I think that plastic itself is not the enemy; the overuse of single use plastic and the disposal thereof is problematic, but long-term durable plastic, looked after and used sensibly, is actually pretty useful. (Remember how much I love tupperware, for example).

Critical to the ecobrick mission is the idea that the very time-consuming process of washing and drying your plastic is a meditation on your use of single-use plastic, and should prompt you to consider how you can reduce and refuse, rather than using the ecobrick as a form of appeasing your conscience for your plastic use.

Here’s a picture of our plastic management system – it’s a sock drier I think, hanging up in our kitchen at the moment (conveniently next to the cleaning cupboard, in a clockwise direction in the spirit of How to green your kitchen part 1). When it’s sunny we hang it outside on the washing line – our neighbours must think we’re pretty mad to be drying our salad bags in the sunshine. Some of the stuff hanging on here at the moment is actually for Terracycle (I’ll come back to Terracycle another time, as I’m having continuing qualms about it since my original post), and the big freezer bag I will reuse until it disintegrates. The process has really helped us to review what we’re using and make different choices, such as almost completly stopping using microrice and switching to bigger pots of yoghurt and washing powder in a box rather than tablets in plastic casing.

BUT I’ve got some problems with the concept.

Firstly, it’s really, really hard to find a project to take your bricks. Theoretically, there’s a network called GoBrik which exists to help you find where you can drop off your bricks to become part of a community project to build garden furniture or playground equipment for example. But a lot of the projects listed seem to be defunct, and people don’t reply to messages of inquiry, or there’s nothing local available. However, the official Ecobrick stance encourages people to take responsibility for their own plastic and retain their bricks themselves by making something for their own home or garden. The idea is that the “throwaway” idea of giving away your waste to someone else reduces your sense of responsibility and is the same as simply putting everything in the recycling bin without thinking about what really happens to it. Do we believe our local authorities are actually processing everything for recycling, or do we suspect that hard-to-recycle plastic is being sent overseas and ending up in the ocean? Equally, do we know that the project where we drop off our ecobrick is going to use it responsibly, to the end of its life?

But what if you haven’t got the time or the skills to build something yourself? If you actively seek a project to drop your bricks off to on the Facebook network, the response can be quite aggressive, with lots of people telling you to make something yourself rather than outsourcing the problem. In fact, the aggressive nature of the Ecobrick Facebook community is pretty off-putting in itself. So you end up with a bunch of bricks in your shed and no idea what to do with them.

Say you do find a project, or build a planter out of your bricks for your own garden. What happens in 500 years? Will they explode and spread tiny particles of plastic everywhere? Is it a time bomb? Would it have been better for it to be incinerated after all? Similarly worryingly, I know of some projects in schools which have been run by volunteers who aren’t properly clued up about the density requirements, so they may well be making structures for children to use which aren’t safely load-bearing, or using bricks that will go mouldy and degrade because people haven’t been instructed clearly enough on how rigorous the cleaning process has to be.

I also see scarily frequent posts on social media talking about how ecobricks can be “sent to developing countries for building projects” – I’m assuming that this has become mythologised because the concept originated in Indonesia, but I feel that this perpetuates the post-colonial approach to waste disposal, when we’ve seen the consequences of western/developed countries sending their unwanted waste to developing countries that haven’t got the infrastructure to deal with it properly, and the environmental carnage this is causing. (Sorry if I’m using the wrong words, it’s difficult to know what the least patronising phraseology is).

So I don’t feel too great about Ecobricks at the moment. I’m still trying to find a project, either in London or near to where other family members live to enable drop-off, while being mindful of the need to avoid complacency and a “giving away the problem” mentality. I may end up making a crap plant pot out of ours in the end (I am notoriously shit at artistic endeavors), then bequeathing it through the next 25 generations of my family… Unless we can start breeding plastic-eating worms to deal with the problem for us. But I do think it’s a useful process in monitoring your single-use plastic use, so for now we will carry on doing it. And suffering the very unbeautiful plastic sock sculpture in our kitchen as penance for our plastic sins.

This is a contentious topic and I would love to know other people’s thoughts on this. So press the comment button and argue with me please! (in a respectful way, of course – unless I’ve inadvertently said something really daft).

Peace and love xx

How to green your kitchen, part 1

Brilliant ideas often come while drinking wine with my friends, and this one is no exception. Thanks B, you know who you are and you’re a total legend.

Welcome to “Green your kitchen”. Not cleaning, but “greening”. The Organised Mum‘s method of cleaning involves starting in one corner of the room, and moving clockwise around it, to retain focus and make sure everything gets done. (I know, I’m namedropping this a lot at the moment but I honestly think it’s brilliant, and it gives you all a rest from me bashing on about my other hero, Jack Monroe.) So I thought, let’s do it with “greening” instead of cleaning. Over a series of posts (probably quite a lot), I’m going to work my way around my kitchen and assess what progress I’ve made in terms of becoming more eco-friendly, and what next steps there are to take. You may wish to join me on this method and think about your own kitchen… If it feels like a useful approach, we’ll follow this with greening your bathroom, bedroom, etc… The possibilities are endless.

Here’s a couple of photos of my kitchen (it does NOT always look like this, I just cleaned it while the small one is snoozing. We can have a chat about the copious amounts of plastic garden toys which I’ve edited out another time… under “greening your garden”, maybe).

My personal premise as always with this stuff is that it’s a gradual process to having a more sustainably eco-friendly home and lifestyle – some people have been working through this stuff for years, others are just getting started. I’m not sure where I “fit” on that continuum, but the one thing I firmly believe is that the “rid your house of all plastic, immediately” ideology is utter bollocks. I stand firmly by the principle that if you have it, you should use it up. There was a very suspicious element of the War on Plastic documentary where a couple had got rid of all the plastic in their bathroom very quickly and spent lots of money on Pinterest-worthy “zero waste” bathroom stuff. Did they just chuck it all away, unused? My view is that unless is’s obviously super evil stuff that shouldn’t be going down the drain – like cosmetics with microbeads in – it should be used up before disposing of the packaging as best we can. I think we should be respecting the virgin materials that this stuff is made from and make more eco-friendly decisions on an item-by-item basis, as things run out.

So here are some riveting pictures of my cleaning cupboards under the sink (big gap is where the compost caddy lives). These used to be be pretty full, but I’m making a conscious effort to use stuff up and replace with a reduced stock of more eco-friendly options.

There’s a few things I will absolutely not use up, that I’m in the process of giving away, via the Buy Nothing group and Olio. Fabric softener I no longer use – I don’t like the artificial smell and personally view it as unnecessary chemicals. I’ve given away some stainless steel cleaner which I bought when I lived somewhere with a stainless steel hob. Still going begging is some “fabric freshener” from Waitrose, I have no idea why I’ve got this, and some Febreze – anyone want them?

I’ve still got some super evil ant killer (I know, but they were in the cupboards… I couldn’t bear it!) and drain cleaner, and some weird stuff that’s supposed to neutralise the smell of cat poo and wee from when the Fluffbeast had some bladder problems and was peeing behind the TV. Some carpet cleaner which is necessary for cat and toddler puke. Plus mould and mildew remover. I’m sure there are alternative eco versions of all of these, but I haven’t looked into it yet. The small plastic water bottles have got distilled water in for my steam mop – I think if I just used our super-hard tap water, my steam mop would scale up and die. My amazing mum brings the water form their tumble-drier for me and we reuse the bottles. I’ve still got some evil plastic washing up sponges left, since swapping to Euroscrubbys we are using these up for fun jobs like scrubbing the barbecue and the highchair every now and again. They’re destined for incineration via our general waste anyway, so they might as well be used first (although they probably also leach microplastics when rinsed? It’s a minefield).

I’ve dumped my trusty Mr Sheen – this was a long-term relationship and I’m still grieving, but it was for the best. Replacing chemical spray from a hard-to-recycle can with damp dusting is a pretty easy switch really, and damp dusting is better for allergy sufferers too, as it traps all the dust into the cloth rather than wafting it around the room (thanks for this one, Gem).

I’m getting into the habit of keeping used dishcloths and tea towels separate, to add to hotter washes. In due course I’m going to look into getting a guppy bag to wash non-cotton stuff – to reduce microplastics leaching into the water course. I’m slightly on the fence about this, as I’m not sure what to do with the residue – so more research required.

Now the exciting bit… I’ve got a stash of empty spray bottles that I’ve saved up to take to my local zero waste shop and fill up with vegan, biodegradable, plastic free cleaning materials. (I will have a rant some time about the phrase “zero waste” and how misleading it is, but not now, as this is a good news story.)

Thus far, I’ve got window and glass cleaner and the multi-surface cleaner made by Sesi, the latter of which can be quite significantly diluted so will last a long time. It was nowhere near as expensive as I expected it to be, and it’s an easy bus ride form home, or about a mile walk away from somewhere I go every week, so I won’t be driving there and undoing my otherwise good work (maybe I’m going to rant about this some time too).

I’m also getting hold of a bulk-sized bottle of white vinegar soon (again via the Buy Nothing gang, it’s a quite remarkable project really), so I will have a crack at making my own cleaning stuff in due course.

I’m a fair bit away from a plastic and chemical-free cleaning arsenal, but I feel like progress has been made since I started really actively thinking about this stuff – around April, I think.

So, I hope that wasn’t too boring. This is the journey, folks. It’s not always glamorous or sexy but it can be radical to rethink every purchase decision you make, every item in your home, and choose to do it better.

Clingfilm Klingons

I hate clingfilm, with a passion. It sticks to itself and never obeys me in where I want it to go, and it’s all wrinkly like this Klingon’s head. I gave it up quite a while ago, because it’s so annoying, and so difficult to clean for the Ecobrick (although I have got some left in the kitchen drawer – wonder what I should do with it?)

But I’m even more annoyed by the gazillions of pop-up ads I’m seeing on Facebook (thanks, algorithms) for these stretchy lid things. I know I ranted about them a bit in my Tupperware post, but honestly I hate the concept so much I need to have another rant. I didn’t ever want to be dogmatic in my opinions here, as I know that different things work for different people, but please don’t buy them! Not only do the reviews almost all say that they’re not actually very effective, but they’re also not biodegradable, super hard to recycle (that old chestnut, “where facilities exist”), and their manufacture must have a considerable carbon footprint. Here are some other alternatives to clingfilm:

  • Tupperware – it’s great, and there really is no evidence that it gives you cancer. Really.
  • Old takeaway boxes are brilliant. I have 483 in the cupboard, at least.
  • One of these for the microwave – yes it’s plastic but I’ve had mine since I was 18 (a LONG time ago) and it’s saved a lot of clingfilm so personally I think it’s fine. I will bequeath it to my son when I’m dead in remembrance of all the microwaved peas he eats.
  • You could just stick a place on top of a bowl, either in the microwave or for storage. We all have plates and bowls.
  • You can also use kitchen roll in the microwave to catch splashes. Then use it to wipe something up afterwards, then put it in the compost. (Didn’t know you could compost kitchen roll? Nor did I until recently. Thanks Google – 10 things I’ve googled about waste and recycling coming up soon)
  • Some people have a stash of pyrex dishes with lids that can be used in the microwave.
  • For open packets in the fridge that need to be covered to stay fresh, I’ve started using old bread bags with the tie. These also work for covering things to go in the freezer.
  • Similarly, my stash of old freezer bags which I wash and reuse serve a similar purpose.
  • For storing leftovers in the fridge, you could use old yoghurt pots, margarine or butter tubs, jam jars etc.

Basically, much as I hate clingfilm, it really worries me that there’s this bandwagon of advertising to persuade you to buy more stuff to replace it, when actually there are loads of other options based on using what you already have, or reusing other packaging before recycling it when it starts to fall to bits.

The marketing machine behind “going zero waste” concerns me. Reducing waste and reducing plastic doesn’t have to mean spending more money and generating demand for yet more stuff, complete with the carbon footprint of its manufacture and distribution. Yes it looks nice and trendy on Pinterest and Instagram, but it’s pointless consumption, and more waste in the end. And it makes me cross.

So please, for your #SaturdaySwitch tomorrow, stop buying clingfilm but don’t be a faux-clingfilm Klingon. I will try really hard to be less ranty in my next post.

Peace and love xx

#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.

#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).

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.)

#SaturdaySwitch part 1

Welcome to Saturday Switch! (It’s got its own hashtag and everything).

My Dad just told me that my last post was too long, with unnecessary footnotes, and to remember that I’m not writing an MBA dissertation, so I will keep this brief.

Saturday switch is going to be an easy (ish) switch that we’ve made to a more eco-friendly product, which will also be a long-term cost saving.

These plastic scourers are bad news for the environment, essentially made of petroleum and 0% biodegradable, also leaking microplastics into the water. So cheap and so effective, but so toxic (also wrapped in non-recyclable plastic film).

We’ve replaced with a double pack of EuroScrubbys, which are made of cotton, are machine-washable and long-lasting and compostable when they reach the end of their lives. They’re very effective – not great on glasses, so we might add a loofah sponge to the washing up armoury in due course.

Admittedly we bought them on Amazon and they came wrapped in plastic, so not perfect – some better options here and alternative ideas here, I didn’t really research this fully enough before making the purchase.

Costings:

Two EcoScrubbys = £7.95, so £3.96 each.

Sainsbury’s non-scratch sponge scourers £1.00 for 6, 17p each.

Asda Smart Price scourers (cheapest I can find) 40p for 8, 5p each.

So assuming you’re using the cheapest plastic-based scourers and you change them once a week, the break-even point would be around 18 months. If you’re using the higher end products (also assuming weekly change), the break-even point would be just under six months.

So not actually a brilliant financial saving after all, but an ocean saver and a plastic free choice. Any thoughts?