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.

The story so far – 1 month in

People buy birthday cakes for their baby’s one month birthday – this is actually a thing. The things I discover through Google image search… I’ll say it again, louder for the people at the back – over-consumption is the problem on this planet!

So I started this blog a month ago and I thought I would just do a little stock take of where we’re at so far. 18 posts, 34 followers, 1188 views over 768 visits from 27 countries and 39 comments. Definitely some people who I don’t know IRL reading, which is very exciting – good to know it’s not just my friends humouring me!

Some promised posts I owe you, which will be coming fairly soon: trying to find out what really happens to my recycling in Greenwich, watching people arguing on the internet about paper bags, giving up micro-rice, following up on #smokegate with Greenwich Council, No Buy July and getting over my hatred of eBay. Also the famous singing dumper truck, Ecobricks and my baby clothes stash of shame.

Some really interesting stuff has come up in the comments too, so thanks to everyone who’s engaging. Things I am thinking about and plan to write about in due course:

  • The Government’s 2018 Waste Strategy and what this means for the recycling industry.
  • The efficacy and impact of putting pressure on Councils about recycling, and on supermarkets about packaging. And petitions – are they worth the effort?
  • What’s the carbon footprint of driving stuff to recycling centres and does it negate the benefit of the recycling?
  • What’s the ecological impact of different plant-milks and what would the global implications be if we all became vegan?
  • Someone commented, brilliantly, that plastic is the cover and distraction from dealing with society’s real issue of over-consumption – what can we do about this, and the bad bits of capitalism? (is it all bad?)
  • Is food labelling meaningless? What welfare standards can we trust – not Red Tractor, for sure.
  • Should we give up takeaways?
  • Should I keep some chickens, or get a goat?

Other stuff to follow-up: home-made gift tags and cards (and toddler craft scissors…), chasing Center Parcs about their eco-sins, more research on eco laundry and dishwasher tablet solutions, the mighty Sir David Attenborough’s speech as Glastonbury which I still haven’t watched, and maybe buying a yoghurt-maker.

I also need to do some really boring research on how to use WordPress more effectively – if anyone has any knowledge to share about plugins, layout hacks etc., I would be grateful.

Also after recommendations for: vegan restaurants in South-East or Central London and brands of bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo/conditioner bars.

Should I do a Facebook page? (Nooooooo Intagram or Pinterest.)

If you’re liking what I’m doing, please do share, comment, retweet and all that stuff. I’m enjoying blogging and it’s great to see the audience increasing.

Peace and Love

xx

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

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“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.