(Belated) #SaturdaySwitch part 7 – yet another post about dish washing

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.

#SaturdaySwitch – lists, and also some amazing bloggers

Aaaaaah. Stationery. Mmmmmmm. My heart rate increases a little bit when I go into a branch of Paperchase. My pupils dilate when I walk down the stationery aisle in Sainsbury’s. I want it ALL. All the notebooks, all the nice brightly-coloured rollerball pens. Want, want, want. All, all, all. Covet, covet, covet.

And I love lists. I love crossing jobs off to do lists. I love having an amazingly complete and perfect and colour-coded to do list of all the things I have to do, ever. I love categorising lists. I’ve also been known to have a list of all the lists (to be fair, I was turning my life upside down and moving to London with no job and nowhere to live, so I think you can forgive me a few lists in pink pen to give me an illusion of control).

But paper is of course made of trees. And trees are amazing and my instinctive feeling is that it’s pretty obviously better not to chop them down. There is of course a circular argument that many trees are grown specifically to make paper, so if there was less demand for paper then those trees would not exist, and their carbon absorption benefit would be lost. But equally, even sustainable growth of trees for paper-marking has an environmental impact. Of course paper can be recycled, and 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared to making it from raw materials. But of course, as always, it’s complicated, and there is a footprint to the recycling process. So the first steps, again as always, are to reduce and reuse.

So I’m working on the Buy Nothing project this week (more on this soon – it’s going to save the world, I tell you). There’s a ton of stuff to do, and my co-creator has shared the Wunderlist app with me – so I’m giving up my personal paper-based to do list… Can I also give up my shopping list, weekly meal plan and other random ramblings that I keep in my nice green notepad? We shall see…

Meanwhile, the totally incredible Gemma Bray at The Organised Mum has just released an app of her awesome system of organising household jobs. So if you’re into this sort of thing – and following her plan has been a sanity saver for me – then do check it out. It will save you the need to write any housework lists, ever again.

And just because I love to plug other awesome bloggers who’ve had a really positive impact on my life, and because I have an enormous girl crush on her, I want to tell you that Jack Monroe has just released a new book of vegan recipes, for pre-order to arrive on Boxing Day. Perfect for the post Christmas health kick and/or Veganuary. We’ll chat about the concept of Veganish again some time…

Belated #SaturdaySwitch and reflections on camping with a toddler

So we’ve been home for a few days now after our camping adventure at Rise Up Singing. I was expecting our first camp with a toddler to be hard work and I wasn’t wrong (sometimes it’s good to prepare for the worst, right?) Nappy changes in a tent with a wriggling, protesting, octopus-like toddler are a challenge and my post-pregnancy body definitely needs a better camping bed solution. It feels unfair to be more exhausted at the end of a “holiday” than at the start. Not to mention the fact that I managed approximately two thirds of one singing workshop, and a handful of fragmented conversations with friends. Some acceptance still needed as to how different this camp was, in comparison to all those years attending as a child-free person, learning five new songs a day and jamming with great singers until the small hours by the fire.

BUT the small one loved it – lots of free range rampaging, chucking 4987 stones into the stream and being allowed to eat Mini Cheddars and raisins for most meals (this is not a child who likes kale, yet). And we had some awesome walks in the woods, small one on the Daddy Donkey.

So anyway. Being in the amazingly beautiful Dartmoor countryside brings it all home in a really intense way (no camping puns here) what’s at stake, as we progress on our journey to protect Mother Earth from destruction. And I have to admit that amidst the mountain of washing, an intense post-camp stomach bug which at one point I thought might be Lyme disease from an infected tick bite (TBC by blood tests next week but I think unlikely as I’m now almost better), I almost felt like giving up.

It’s so hard. Aeroplanes fly over our house almost every minute in London and there’s next to nothing we can do about it. The supermarkets are full to the brim of plastic and it’s so much effort and expense to do plastic-free food shopping. The internet is still full of people arguing about how to save the world in the best way, while being quite rude to each other. We have a new PM and cabinet who don’t care about anything except hard Brexit. McDonalds paper straws aren’t recyclable. Or they are. Or it doesn’t matter. People leave litter in the park and put the wrong stuff in the plastic bag recycling at Sainsbury’s – which might not matter if it all ends up in an eastern European landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

But – this, guys. This.

https://www.pinns.co.uk/devon/hemburywoods.html

And this.

http://holidayindartmoor.co.uk/buckfast/hembury-woods-circular-walk-36110.html

(The rest of my photos were rubbish so these are stolen images of Hembury woods, but this is where we were, and it’s magnificent).

So onwards with the changes, onwards with the small steps – and gathering courage and strength for the big ones.

While away I did chemical deodorant detox (thanks, hippy friends, for tolerating this) and I’ve started using the new plastic-free natural one this week (as per The Great Deodorant Experiment). I’ve also ditched shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in favour of this conditioning shampoo soap bar which can be used on hair and body. And, sort of without thinking about it I’ve ditched face wash for this really gorgeous tea tree and peppermint face soap. My skin is feeling great, I don’t think I smell too awful and my hair is… taking some getting used to… but I’m persevering. Everything from The Good Soap Company came packaged in paper and card too, absolutely no plastic, and very good service. Highly recommended.

This really useful article suggests how to go about making the switch to a shampoo bar if you’re considering it. My hair is still feeling a bit waxy so I’m researching other methods e.g. lathering the soap first rather than applying the bar straight to your hair, doing extra rinses etc. I will keep you posted. I think a plastic-free bathroom is likely to be achieved sooner in our house than a plastic-free kitchen.

So. August continues and I have a bunch of cat sitting jobs coming up (yes, I am a multi-talented beast indeed), plus you’re all on holiday anyway, so blog posts may be less frequent for a few weeks. I’ve got some ideas for a bit of a relaunch in September, so I will be nagging for likes and shares and all that stuff. Back soon. Ish.

#SaturdaySwitch part 4 – No Buy July

I read about the concept of “No buy July” on one of the zero waste groups I’ve joined on Facebook. The full concept as discussed in the group seemed quite extreme to me – not buying anything at all, including food, and just using up whatever you have in the freezer and cupboards. I knew we couldn’t manage this, as fresh fruit and vegetables is important to us as well as a fair bit of dairy. But I decided to have a crack at it – buy no stuff, with the exclusion of food and fuel. (To be fair, there are plenty of months where we don’t buy diesel for the car, as we hardly every use it, but we needed some for the Center Parcs trip and next week’s camping extravaganza).

So why stop buying stuff? Let’s start with clothes.

It’s widely held that the fashion industry is the second most polluting global industry after oil. This might not actually be true, but it’s clear there’s still a major impact.

Extinction Rebellion are calling on us all to pledge to buy no new clothing for a year, from April 2019-April 2020, in a bid to disrupt the fashion industry and reduce the ecological impact of clothing manufacture. Key wording from the pledge:

“We can no longer afford to use land to grow crops for producing clothes and extract oil to produce synthetic fibres. Enough is enough. Business as usual is leading us towards extinction.  

For the next year, we will engage in a boycott of the fashion industry and its ecocidal, unethical system of pointless production. We will take joy in making do with what we, collectively, already have, and learn to share, repair, rewear and relove. We challenge ourselves to radically change our relationships with clothes.”

Buying no new clothes for myself is not a huge challenge really – I’m not much of a fashionista, and we haven’t got a ton of spare cash for these things. I have bought some leggings on eBay this month though, including some Boden ones, so I’m officially a yummy mummy now. I was initially a bit squeamish about second hand leggings, but they’re actually fine. I will do another post in due course about our adventures with eBay and why patience is a virtue!

Removing temptation is a good move – I rarely go High Street shopping, because it’s not very fun with a toddler. There are some good tips here about deleting marketing emails before read them – they’re designed to tempt you to buy stuff which you probably don’t need, and it’s so easy to buy online for that quick one-click endorphin hit. I’ve gone a step further and unsubscribed from a load of mailing lists. I know where the Mothercare website is if I ever need it, but I don’t need to see the cute new Mylene Klass range of kids clothes that my son DOES NOT NEED (sigh). Baby clothes (toddler clothes? boy’s clothes? He’s not really a baby any more… *sobs*) are my weakness though and I’m promising to make a concerted effort to get the majority of his next batch second hand.

Other stuff – well, it’s just more stuff, isn’t it, really? The manufacture and distribution of everything has a carbon footprint, and it all will have to be disposed of eventually. There’s probably enough stuff already in existence to go round for the whole planet for a good few centuries. There’s not much that can’t be borrowed or obtained second hand.

So far so good, until the camping trip planning began in earnest…

The sum total of new things we have bought in July are as follows, all directly related to our upcoming holiday:

  • A roof box for the car – we did try and find one on eBay but it’s super complicated getting one with the right roof bars for your car. I feel like this is a pretty major long-term investment though, and does not count as a disposable, frivolous purchase.
  • A feed bucket – sounds mad, but I think it will work as a good travel bath tub for the small person, I know he can’t go 10 days without a few scrubs. Plus it’s squashable so will fit more easily in the car than a normal bucket. Again, I think this will get a lot of use over the years on camping trips, for fetching water, washing up etc., and can be used as a storage receptacle too.
  • An LED camping light – tried to borrow one from various friends and family without success. Again, will have a long life with us over the years/decades and will be looked after (and NOT trashed by a small person obsessed with switching lights on and off, definitely not).

So we haven’t quite pulled off No Buy July, but I’m interested in a longer-term lifestyle change. As a friend of mine put it recently when she signed the fashion pledge:

BUY NOTHING NEW. 

I reckon unless you’re gifted something, or its absolutely essential, it’s hard to justify having new stuff these days. I think a challenge such as that suggested by Extinction Rebellion, gets you to really think every time you make a purchase. “Do I really need this? Can I find it second hand anywhere else? If I have to buy it can I make sure it doesn’t end up in land fill when I’m done?” 

I’m certainly not going to get all militant about it. But I’ve most definitely reached a turning point where buying new really jars with me.

Less stuff. Reduce, reuse. Rebel against the consumer machine. That feels more radical than buying leggings on eBay, but that’s what it is, and I think that’s what we have to do to save the world. Super rad.

What went well? Even better if…? #SaturdaySwitch feedback

Image result for to do list clip art

“What went well, even better if” is a bloody brilliant feedback tool, in my opinion. We used it in the marvellous Specialist Services Division at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where I spent the happiest two years of my career to date. It’s really useful to focus on positives already achieved, and identify further opportunities for change and improvement – and helps steer pessimists like me away from catastrophising if things haven’t gone exactly to plan.

So since I don’t have a new Saturday Switch for today, as we haven’t run out of anything else lately, I thought I’d just do a review of switches made so far, in case anyone is dying for an update.

Switching to reusable washing up scourers instead of disposable plastic ones was the first switch I blogged about. This has been super easy, I love the ones we are using. Our brilliant cat-sitter mentioned how great they are last week (she’s brilliant because, among many other brilliant things, she washes up the Fluff’s bowls properly every day) and I know a few friends have invested in some too. Even better if they hadn’t been packaged in plastic – I have finally got round to tweeting EuroScrubby about this today, so will keep you posted on any response. Also even better if they were any good on fine glass e.g. champagne glasses. However, we use these so rarely, it’s not a big deal. And I have half a pack of plastic ones left which we may as well use up, so I will save them up for this and they will last a long time.

Part 2 of #SaturdaySwitch was about ditching multi-pack yoghurts to reduce plastic waste and save dosh. What went well is that I really like the Yeo Valley strawberry yoghurt that comes in big tubs. Even better if the small one did too… he’s gone on yoghurt strike since being forced to give up Little Yeos, so I need to experiment with some other flavours. I am also intending to check out the feasibility of making my own yoghurt with a second hand yoghurt maker, if eBay can come up with one for me.

And last week I posted about switching to a cardboard box of laundry powder instead of tablets individually wrapped in plastic. Again, no drama here – I’ve got my cool little scoop thing and it’s just as quick as unwrapping the packet (and quicker and much less annoying than washing it and putting it in the Ecobrick), and washes clothes just as effectively. Even better if I had time to research properly all the zillions of eco laundry solutions out there (ideally cruelty-free and ocean-safe). By the time the box has run out, I will have got my head around this.

Other changes that I’ve talked about, not specific to Saturdays, are moving to organic eggs (straightforward but more expensive) and switching to natural deodorant – this is on hiatus at the moment, as we’re going camping for 10 days soon (with a toddler – I know, I’m a lunatic) and there’s a real risk that the new natural one might melt – the packaging advises keeping it in the fridge during hot weather. So I will start using it when we get back, in parallel with my co-experimenter.

The really difficult change has been the baby wipes. Not actually because I have any real love for the wipes, but because of the practical issues for me of using the floor in the bathroom due to my knackered post-natal knees. I’ve got myself fixated on this as a reason not to make the switch – someone could probably write a good thesis on nudge theory about this sort of thing – as I’m convinced I’ve got to be next to the toilet to be able to chuck the loo roll down the loo after cleaning up the worst of the poo. Which is probably a nonsense excuse. So anyway I’m biting the bullet and buying some Cheeky Wipes, as I think this will be the motivator to make this change properly and I can set up a changing station upstairs with the clean and mucky boxes. Not even going to attempt this while we’re camping though, I’m afraid that’s definitely more than I can cope with.

I’m wondering if any of my readers have done any research on the “biodegradable” wipes that are being hyped up now and if there’s any truth in the claims made? Or is this more green-washing vibes?

So there we are, that’s the #SaturdaySwitch updates. Riveting stuff, as always.

#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…

#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).

#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?