Be more Greta

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.

(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.

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.