Plastic Avoidance: Part 6

Toiletries

Toothbrushes

According to the Australian Environmental Toothbrush website, over 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of by Australians annually, amounting to approximately 1000 tonnes of landfill each year. The plastic they’re made of won’t break down in our lifetime.  Nor within the lifetime of our children. Imagine that on a global scale.  This is what inspired a Brisbane dentist to invent the wonderful Environmental toothbrush.

Thankfully they are easy to get hold of in this country too and you may well find them in your local health food store.  If not you can get them from Living Naturally (the soapnut people) and of course they sell them on Amazon 🙂 I recommend ordering a few from Living Naturally when you get your soapnuts 😉

These toothbrushes are lovely and they come wrapped in nothing but a little cardboard box.  Being made of bamboo they are safely compostable if you remove the bristles – they haven’t been able to find natural bristles yet so they’re made of a BPA-free polymer, as they explain here, but still this toothbrush is far superior to one made entirely of plastic.

We use our toothbrushes for cleaning the bathroom when our teeth have finished with them.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is very difficult to find without plastic, so let us know if you find any.  We’ve just discovered Remineralizing Tooth Salve, haven’t tried it yet but it looks very promising.  It’s made by Ophir Naturals and we came across it at Living Naturally.  These little tabs come in a glass jar (unfortunately it does have a plastic lid) and according to the manufacturer, they enable the teeth to re-propogate enamel through the process of remineralization (you can read the scientific details here).  They’re vegan, sustainable and fair trade;  and their customer testimonials are very impressive.  It’s quite expensive but if it does as it claims it’ll be worth every penny for what you’ll save on dental work.  I’m really looking forward to trying these – I’ll let you know how we get on 🙂

post script:  10.42pm – we’ve now tried them and, well, the soapy taste is gonna take some getting used to – Miranda ate a cake afterwards to get rid of the taste 😉 – but I’m so encouraged by the testimonials on their website that I have high-hopes for their effect on my teeth and I will continue using them 😀 

Deodorant

We use natural volcanic alum stone instead of packaged deodorant and we get on very well with it.  After washing and drying your skin, you just wet the stone, rub it under your arms and leave your skin to air dry.  Rinse the stone, dry it and put it somewhere safe for next time.  One stone will last for months.  This really works!

Admittedly I don’t often do activities that make me sweat but when I occasionally do get hot and sweaty and have been a bit worried that I’m starting to smell, I notice a few minutes later that the smell has completely gone.  It’s like the alum, which inhibits the growth of the microbes which cause the smell, takes a couple of minutes to neutralise them.  So even if you get sweaty and start to notice an unwelcome odour, you’ll find that it disappears after a few minutes 😀  When this has happened to me I check my skin again at the end of the day and find it smells lovely and clean, not a suggestion of anything unpleasant.  The only thing to be aware of is that your clothes may start to smell if they are in close contact with your armpits, so it’s best to wear things that are loose under your arms so that they don’t become contaminated if you do sweat.  The stone will only keep your skin smelling sweet, not the fabric that sticks to it 😉

You can get the potassium alum stone from Natural Spa Supplies – and you’ll find a lot of other gorgeous stuff in their shop too.   “Alum stone can also be used as a fantastic natural aftershave, ideal for sensitive skin, which reduces the appearance of shaving burn, and can help stem bleeding from nicks.  Alum styptic have long been used by traditional barbers.  In addition, Alum stone can also be used to relieve insect bites.”  They send it to you wrapped in paper and an eco-friendly paper padded envelope 😀

For those who feel they need a little more protection, Miranda uses this in the summer when she’s cycling.  She gets really sweaty and says this works brilliantly.  It’s a lovely cream which goes a long way because you only need a very thin layer on your skin.  Packaged in a glass jar with a metal lid, it is provided by the lovely people at Living Naturally.  It comes in Rose & Lavender, Citrus & Ylang, or fragrance-free.

The curse

There’s no longer any need to use disposable products for your monthly curse – go to Earthwise Girls to get everything you need in terms of washable, reusable, organic, natural, eco-friendly alternatives 😀

Hand Creams and Moisturisers

This cream is gorgeous.  It’s organic, it’s vegan and it’s the best moisturising cream I’ve found.  It’s perfect for making dry skin (hands and body) silky smooth (I used it on my tattoo and it was perfect for the job), and it says on the tin you can also use it on your face.  It smells heavenly and comes in a tin with a foil seal over the top.  No plastic at all.  You can get it from Holland & Barrett 😀

Alternatively, you can get a selection of soapnut moisturisers in glass jars from Living Naturally 🙂

Soap

For those who don’t want to wash their hair and bodies with soapnut water, Living Naturally provides lovely soap and shampoo bars.  You can buy all sorts of varieties, singly or 5 at a time.  If you buy one singly, it comes it a little drawstring linen bag; if you buy 5 for a little discount, they come wrapped together in a single sheet of paper.

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Click for PLASTIC AVOIDANCE parts twothreefour and five 😀

Plastic Avoidance: Part 5

Other things for cleanliness

It’s not difficult to buy recycled toilet roll and kitchen roll, but getting it without plastic wrapping is impossible.  Or so I thought until I opened a wonderful Christmas gift from Miranda – toilet rolls: 100% recycled paper wrapped in nothing but 100% recycled paper!  (She discovered them thanks to a post by The World According To Plumes

“Toilet roll so soft it’ll make your bottom smile” is the slogan of who gives a crap, a wonderful organisation which donates half of its profits to help build toilets for people who don’t have them  (that’s about 40% of the world’s population).

They might seem, at first glance, rather more expensive than what you can get at the supermarket but there is actually very little in it.  You see the rolls are double length (we have noticed a roll lasts twice as long in our bathroom than the ones from Waitrose) and the people at who gives a crap have already done the maths for you: a box of 48 double length rolls costs £36 which is 18.8p per 100 sheets.  Compare that to Waitrose who say their recycled toilet tissue costs 16.9p per 100 sheets.

See?  Not much in it.  And just think what you get for your money: a clear environmental conscience and a warm glow derived from the knowledge that you’re helping people build much-needed toilets.

Each roll is beautifully wrapped in decorative recycled paper which you can save and re-use as wrapping paper.  It really is gorgeous 😀

So what are you waiting for?  Get over to who gives a crap and satisfy all your toilet roll and kitchen roll needs.  Initiate a regular order (every 8 or 12 weeks) to get £5 off, and shipping is free in the UK if you spend over £20.

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Click for PLASTIC AVOIDANCE parts twothreefour and six 😀

Plastic Avoidance: Part 4

Personal and domestic hygiene

Soapnuts are fantastic!

You can find out all about soapnuts here 🙂 We love ’em and have used them for years.  We started using them as a laundry detergent, as directed by the vendors at Living Naturally (soapnuts.co.uk) but soon found they could serve all our soap needs.  We now use them to wash the dishes, to wash ourselves, and to wash our hair.

Living Naturally Soapnuts (dried fruit shells which contain natural saponin) are a natural, non-polluting, compostable, alternative to conventional laundry detergents and synthetic soaps. No fillers, foaming agents, bleach, phthlates, phosphates or parabens.

For the laundry:

Put about 6 soapnut shells (or 12 half shells) into the little linen bag provided when you order your soapnuts from Living Naturally, and bung it into the machine with your wash.  That’s it.  Oh, if you’re doing a cold wash, or a quick wash, it’s probably a good idea to put the little bag of shells into a glass of warm water and let them soak for twenty minutes first.  Then put the bag and the soaking water into the machine and start the cycle.  When the cycle is finished take the bag of shells out and use them again for your next load.  You can usually use the same shells two or three times, unless you do a boil wash.  I’ve found that if I do a boil wash it uses them up.  Anyway, you can tell when they’re used up when they go soft and beige, and when that happens, just bung them in your compost bin.  Oh, by the way, if you don’t have a little linen bag, you can put the shells in a sock and tie a knot in the open end.

For the washing up:

Put 4 soapnut shells in a clean jar and cover them with water.  Leave to soak for at least an hour, but preferably several hours.  Then tip the whole jar (water and shells) into your washing up bowl and add fast flowing hot water.  Look what happens:

Do the washing up 🙂 Don’t worry if the bubbles disappear while you’re doing it because you know the soap is in the water.  Artificial detergents add foaming agents to make it seem soapier – don’t let them fool you.  You only need as much as the soapnuts provide.  We’ve even found they’re great with greasy things.  You shouldn’t put anything oily or greasy directly into your water for obvious reasons, but if you wipe off as much as you can with kitchen roll, then vigorously rub a single soapnut all over the greasy surface, it will cut through the remaining grease and will be lovely and clean when you rinse it with clean water.  You can put that particular soapnut into the compost, but the others in your bowl can be put back into the soaking jar and covered with water to be used again tomorrow.  You should be able to use them two or three times before they need composting and replacing.

For washing hands, bodies and hair:

For this you need a plastic bottle but you don’t have to buy one – just walk down any street and before long you’ll find a discarded plastic bottle (we found these on the beach).  Bring them home, wash them and stab a few holes in the lid (you can use a sewing needle for this but it’s difficult and potentially painful.  The most effective tool we found was a stitch ripper).

Now, you might be thinking that the lid on the bottle in the photo looks rather dirty and unpleasant.  It isn’t, it’s just a bit brown from the soapnut liquid.  You can see from the bottle on the left that the shells will turn the water brown.  It’s not dirty, just soapy.

Okay, once you’ve got your clean bottle with holes in the lid, put a few shells in it.  For these bottles (600ml) we put 6 to 8 whole shells in.  Fill it with water and leave it to stand for at least 24 hours.

When they have soaked for a day they should be ready to use.  Put your hand over the lid and turn the bottle upside down to mix the clear water with the brown and there you have it.  Tip some of the soapnut liquid into your hand, rub your hands together, rinse and repeat.  You’ll probably notice it’s a bit lathery when you rub your hands together the second time.  Rinse and dry.  Put some more shells to soak in another bottle so that you’ve got some ready when you’ve used up the first one.  If you find your skin starts to become dry after washing with soapnut liquid, just put less shells in your bottle.  Adjust to the right concentration for you.

We also use our soapnut liquid for showering and washing our hair.  I used to wash my hair every day but now I only do it twice a week.  Be aware it might take your hair a couple of weeks to get shampoo out of its system (those products make your hair very needy) and you might have to put up with it being a bit greasier than you’re used to at first, but after a couple of weeks of using soapnut water you’ll find your hair looks and feels as soft and clean as it ever did with shampoo and you might find, like me, that you don’t need to wash it so often.  Oh, I should mention that your hair won’t lather up when you use soapnut water, but that doesn’t matter.  Just massage it in like you would shampoo, leave it in for a couple of minutes while you continue with your shower, rinse and repeat.  After the second rinse you’ll notice that your hair squeaks when you rub it, – it’s squeaky clean.

WARNING:  WHEN WASHING YOUR HAIR WITH SOAPNUT WATER, TILT YOUR HEAD BACK AND KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED.  IF YOU GET IT IN YOUR EYES IT WILL STING!!!

Don’t worry, we’ve got it in our eyes more than once and the stinging subsides after a couple of hours and vision goes completely back to normal, but still, for your own comfort, it’s best avoided 😀

So there you have it – not only plastic-free, but completely compostable when finished with.  It doesn’t get any greener than that.

We’ve bought soapnuts from a couple of places but Living Naturally are the best because they don’t use any plastic in their packaging.  Well, if you do get plastic outer packaging in the post from them it’s only because they’ve re-used plastic that they’ve been sent, and they do give you the option to request no plastic when you order 🙂

Check them out, they’re brilliant 😀

Multi-surface cleaner

Vinegar makes a great multi-surface cleaner – for bathrooms, toilets, sinks, windows and paintwork, we’ve used it for years.  Plus, if you’ve got any black mould trying to tattoo your walls and ceilings this winter, zap it with vinegar and scrub it off.   Vinegar is mild acid which can kill 82% of mold species.

It’s easy to get organic vinegar in a glass bottle with metal lid, and if you’ve got an old plastic spray bottle from a previously-bought multi-surface cleaner, then you can just wash it out, fill it with vinegar and you’re all set.  Cider vinegar is just as good, but we switched to white wine vinegar because cider vinegar can leave a yellowish discolouration on white paintwork 🙂

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Click for PLASTIC AVOIDANCE parts two, threefive and six 😀

Plastic Avoidance: Part 3

Real Food

Once you’ve accepted that you can’t always get organic, it’s not difficult to avoid plastic.  If you can’t find enough loose produce at your usual supermarket, find out if there’s a good old fashioned market in your town.  We’ve found one which is just a big fruit and veg stall in the town centre, once or twice a week.  The guys who run it are really friendly, they sell quality seasonal fruit and vegetables, provide small (compostable) paper bags to fill, and it’s very good value for money – much better even than the supermarkets.  Just take your own shopping bags and get them to weigh as much as you need.  We bought a big 12.5 kg sack of Desiree potatoes from them for just £5!

We also have a health food shop not too far away which sells a small selection of loose organic produce which is great although we can’t get there every week.

Or you might be able to find a local organic produce grower who operates a veg box scheme whereby you order a weekly veg box from them and they deliver it to your door.  They will be happy to leave the box in a designated safe place if you’re going to be out and you’ll get a great selection of whatever is in season. The soil Association will help you find a scheme near you 🙂

As for other necessary staples – you can probably get most of them in glass jars or tins.  We used to buy lentils, sultanas, pasta, tofu, cereal etc etc in plastic packets because we thought we couldn’t avoid it, but now we’re getting our lentils in tins and we’ll manage without cereal, pasta and dried fruit.  We buy organic oats in paper bags and I’ll mix them with fresh fruit for my breakfast instead of sultanas.  If we need tofu we’ll get it in tetra paks.  I know tetra paks are coated in plastic so I’m not happy with that idea but it seems to be the best option we’ve got at this point.  The cartons are 75% paperboard, according to their website, the plastic on them is very very thin, much less plastic than an actual plastic container, and tetra paks are completely recyclable.

Things like vinegar, ketchup and oil are easy to get in glass bottles, although sadly I don’t think there’s any way of avoiding the plastic pouring spout they put in the oil bottles.  But I always think, even if everything is not as perfect as you’d like it to be, the world would be a better place if everyone at least did this.  If the only plastic going into someone’s recycling, or landfill, was a couple of plastic pouring spouts and a few tetra paks every fortnight, that would be pretty good going.  Same goes for things like cocoa powder and gravy granules – they come in cardboard tubs with metal bottoms and a plastic lid.  Sometimes mostly plastic-free is the best you can do.

Lots of other staples that have always been wrapped in paper, still are.  You can get bread in paper bags from a bakery, or you can make your own.  I haven’t been able to buy salt without plastic wrapping but if you buy things with salt already added – like the stock cubes above (paper-wrapped in a cardboard box) – then you can manage without it.Something else to be aware of is that tea bags (which are supposed to be compostable) are actually made of 20% plastic.  See here for a great post with more details about that and sign this petition aimed at getting Unilever to remove all plastic from their tea bags.  Be aware though, it’s not just Unilever that does it, this is common practice.  The only way to be sure you’re not getting plastic is to buy loose tea leaves 🙂 And if you check this out you’ll see that there are a lot more uses for tea leaves than just a relaxing drink.

Need a meal in a hurry?  Well, you can’t buy hash browns or oven chips anymore, but look what you can buy!  There are all sorts of delicious and convenient ready-prepared vegan goodies in cardboard containers in the freezer section of your supermarket.

So whadaya need plastic for?

Not much!

Click for PLASTIC AVOIDANCE parts twofourfive and six

Plastic Avoidance: Part Two

Sweet Treats

Doing without plastic doesn’t have to mean doing without.

Let’s get our priorities straight and start with chocolate 😀

The chocolates pictured above tick all the right boxes:

1.  They’re vegan

2.   They’re fair trade (included on the ethical chocolate list)

3.  They’re organic

and

4.  They’re wrapped the old-fashioned way: in foil and paper 😀

In fact, as far as we can tell, there is only one downside to these particular chocolates – they don’t last long! 😉

Vivani is new to us and we’re so glad we found them.  Their chocolate is absolutely gorgeous – I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate over the years and I think I can confidently say that this is the best ever!  My favourite is the White Nougat Crisp, no, the Mandel Orange Rice Choc, no no, it’s the Crispy Corn Flakes Rice Choc …. no, I can’t choose between them, their entire vegan range is completely amazing (be aware that sadly not all their products are vegan, but a lot of them are).  Check out their whole range here 🙂

The Ombars are gorgeous too – especially for those who like their chocolate rich and dark and nutritious, coz it’s raw 🙂 Everything is wonderfully vegan and look what they say about their packaging:

“Like you, we believe in recycling.  So we wrap our bars in recyclable aluminium foil and paper, and ship them in fully-recyclable cardboard. Did you know our button bags are fully compostable? Just throw them in your compost bin with vegetable peelings – within a few weeks the bag will have completely broken down and returned to nature.” (see their FAQs)

We got all these treats from our local Health Food Shop, and we’ve seen Ombars in Waitrose, but if you can’t find them near you, you can buy Ombars online here and Vivani lists their worldwide stockists here 🙂 And of course you can probably find them on Amazon 😉

Fingers crossed whoever mails them to you doesn’t use plastic 😮

But, if you’re having trouble getting hold of those, why not pick up a big bar of vegan, organic, fair trade cooking chocolate from the supermarket?  Good ole Green & Black’s Dark Cooking chocolate is also only wrapped in foil and paper and it’s absolutely delicious in home baked chocolate chip cookies 😀

Speaking of baking, if you want more than just chocolate in your plastic-free sweet treat artillery you can make cakes and biscuits yourself.  Vegan recipes use oil instead of margarine, which can be bought organic in glass bottles; flour comes in paper bags and sugar … well, I have in recent years felt compelled to buy sugar in plastic bags because I wanted organic fair trade.  However, in prioritising plastic avoidance, I have discovered that I can buy paper-wrapped sugar that is pretty ethical 🙂  I had mistakenly believed that all white sugar had been whitened with bone-char.  However, it seems that’s just cane sugar, not sugar beet.  Sugar from sugar beet is vegan!

Silver Spoon proudly state their commitment to eco-friendliness on their packets:

“Sustainability is nothing new to us – we’ve been working on it for 30 years.  Our sugar beet is homegrown and our bags are recyclable, made with paper from certified forests.  We send nothing to landfill and our excess production energy helps to power British homes.”

 They work directly with 1200 British farmers in East Anglia who grow the beets which are then transported just a short distance to the factory in Bury St Edmunds (also in East Anglia 😀 )

Not bad eh?

So far so plastic-free good.

Click for PLASTIC AVOIDANCE parts three, four, five and six

 

Plastic Avoidance: Part One

We have for many years tried to keep our plastic consumption to a minimum but have found it very difficult when also trying to incorporate other ethics into our shopping habits.  For example – it’s pretty easy to buy loose, unpackaged fruit and vegetables if you take your own bags to the market with you, but if you want organic produce, it’s usually wrapped in plastic.

We always recycled it of course but we know that a plastic food container, because of its low melting point, cannot be recycled into another plastic food container.  It can really only be downcycled into things like plastic lumber which cannot be recycled again.  Glass, paper and tin cans on the other hand, can be recycled ad infinitum.  Bottles will become bottles again and again; drinks cans and baked beans tins will become cans and tins again and again; paper can be recycled again and again, and eventually composted.

 

So, even though we were recycling, we felt very bad about the plastic in our bins.  Add to that the worry that maybe the plastic being collected by the council recycling lorry wasn’t even being recycled and … well, let me explain:

I had an email a couple of weeks ago from Avaaz campaigning group saying that studies had shown that most (about 80%) of the plastic in the ocean gyres was coming from rivers in Asia and Africa.  Finding it very hard to believe that people in Asia and Africa consume more plastic than people in Europe and America, I was reminded of an email conversation I’d had with someone at Waitrose supermarket.  They told me that there was no facility to recycle their plastic bags in this country so they sent them to Asia for recycling.

Well – if Waitrose does it, you can bet a lot of other companies do it too, maybe even councils?  And if the UK sends plastic to Asia for recycling, you can bet other countries do too.  If the same is happening in Africa that would explain why 80% of the plastic in the oceans arrives there from those continents.  The plastic that I diligently put out for recycling might be ending up in the ocean!

It’s all speculation but it makes a lot of sense and the only way I can be sure that I’m not part of the problem is to take control of it myself.

We now realise that the good done for the Earth in growing organic, is compromised if they wrap the organic produce in plastic.  Plastic not only litters and pollutes when it’s disposed of, the very production of it is toxic since it is (usually) made from oil.

So we’re not going to pay in to that any more.

We have to prioritise plastic avoidance and hopefully these ethical companies will respond with ethical packaging.  In the meantime, we’ll show you our plastic avoidance tactics.

Starting tomorrow 😀

Plastic’s Not Fantastic

You know plastic’s not fantastic

And it might seem rather drastic

But the obvious solution

Is a New Year’s resolution

To give unfantastic plastic the heave-ho.

So that’s what we’ve decided,

We’re determined to be guided

By the needs of Earth and Earthlings

To be free of all plastic things,

So to all new things of plastic we say NO!