Happy 2019! I’m starting this year’s blogs with a wild tangent from my writing life into, well, the rest of my life. Gasp! No, writing is not the entirety of my life, though it occasionally seems like it (not a complaint).
Like many people who watched ‘that’ episode of Planet Earth II by the incomparable Sir David Attenborough, I’ve been trying to reduce my plastic use, which has led me to looking into ways to reduce products that are stuffed with chemicals and/or tested on animals and generally be more environmentally conscious.
Don’t get me wrong, life-saving drugs and treatments are, unfortunately, a necessity and that they are tested on animals is a tragedy – but I wouldn’t be refusing chemotherapy if I needed it because of that. However, I can stop using beauty products and the like that are tested on animals.
So, here’s a list of stuff I’ve started using or will move to when my current products run out, because there’s no point throwing stuff away in order to buy a replacement that’s eco-friendlier – it still goes to landfill otherwise.
If you have any more to add, hit me up in the comments.
This one’s easy. All non-meat food waste now goes into a compost caddy – tea bags, vegetable ends, egg shells, carrot peel, stale bread, that elderly garlic that’s sprouted leaves in the vegetable drawer – and all that goes into the green recycling bin along with lawn clippings, windfall etc, and is taken for green recycling, meaning it’ll get put into giant compost heaps or may be taken for biomass fuel generation. What it won’t be doing is rotting in landfill and giving off gases.
‘No poo’ solid shampoo and conditioning bars
These are 100% handmade, locally sourced, cruelty-free and chemical-free. They are delivered in paper, not plastic. They’re made from natural oils, essential oils and natural colourings, no more.
I get mine from Juliet Rose Soaps and my hair has never been better.
Alum stones/deodorant stones
These have been a revelation for me. I learnt about alum stones … oh, somewhere, can’t remember where, and have been using them for about 18 months now.
Caveat: Alum stones do not stop you sweating, so if you are prone to a lot of sweat they may not be the best choice. What they do do is they stop your sweat from smelling.
Fresh sweat is actually a pleasant smell; what’s gross is when the bacteria living on your skin eat your sweat and poop it out. Yes, that’s right, body odour is bacteria poo. Alum stones leave a thin film of minerals on your skin that prevents the bacteria from forming in the first place.
Best thing about it is you still sweat normally, so there’s no dealing with blocked pores and you’re less likely to overheat if you can’t get the sweat out of your body because of an antiperspirant.
Even better? Breast cancer-causing aluminium is no longer being introduced into my body through traditional deodorants.
Simply wet the stone and rub it on your skin. It’s also a styptic, so you can use it if you get a shaving cut. I got mine on eBay – it was about £6 for three stones. I’ve been using one stone for about six months and you can just see it’s starting to round off at the edges I use. Each stone weighs 100g.
Speaking of shaving cuts, the husband bought me a bambow razor for Christmas. It’s a bamboo handled razor and, aside from being rather pretty, is a wet razor that is not disposable. Why throw away the plastic handle and all when it’s only the blade that’s dull? So this is the last razor I’ll ever need to buy and I can just replace the blades when they’re dull.
The discarded blades can be recycled in a metal tin – beans, soup, chickpeas etc – to protect the handlers from the edges.
Of course, it doesn’t need to be a bambow – any wet razor will do.
Yes, soap. Cruelty-free (check for the bunny symbol) and plastic-free, soap is a no-brainer. Most of us moisturise after showering anyway, right, so what does it matter if soap dries out your skin more than shower gel does?
Buy a soap dish and you’re good to go.
Caveat – I do still use body lotion and face cream and yes, I have to buy these in plastic or glass containers. So far I haven’t found anywhere that does refills of existing containers, but I’ll keep looking.
Nothing to do with reminding the people in your life who have nuts to wash them properly, though obviously good hygiene is important.
Soap nuts are mainly found in South India and harvested in October. Place three to seven half-shells in a cotton bag and put it in your washing machine drum. No need for fabric softener, they contain saponine which cleans your clothes and are allergy-free. Obviously we have to consider the air miles here, but the lack of chemicals entering the sewage system with your grey water is a plus.
100% natural, no chemicals. The remains of the shells can be composted, too. When washing at 30-40° – use 5 soap nut halves in soft water or 6-7 halves in hard water. 1 pack (1kg, about £10) will last for approximately 240 washes!!!
Caveat – I haven’t tried these yet, but they’re on the list for when our detergent runs out.
Loose fruit and veg
Tomatoes, apples, cucumber, carrots, potatoes, peppers, onions – take your own bags or, like me, just carry them loose. Weigh them at the checkout and pack ’em in your bag. Has the added advantage that you only buy as many as you need so don’t throw away stuff that’s gone past its best. And if you do have to throw it, it’s going into your compost caddy, isn’t it?
Zero waste shops
This one is a lot trickier because there aren’t a lot of them around yet, but last night my best friend and I went to a pop up zero waste shop – we took our own containers, plastic, glass, whatever, and filled up on herbs, spices, cleaning products and hand wash.
I am now the proud owner of a bottle formerly containing chambord that is full of turmeric instead.
So how does this all work out? Well, I’ve done some rough calculations based on what I was probably using PER YEAR before making these switches:
Shampoo and conditioning bottles – 10
Shower gel bottles – 12
Deodorants – 4
Disposable razors – 6
That’s 32 plastic items per year that aren’t going to landfill. FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. If I live to be a hundred, that’s 1,920 plastic items I will not have bought and then discarded.
And that doesn’t include the 50 or so punnets of tomatoes I was getting through annually before I started buying them loose. Or the 30 plastic bags of apples or 20 plastic bags of carrots or or or ………
David thanks you, and so does the planet.