Thursday, 24 December 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Hands up if you have a plastic Christmas tree. Ok, if you’ve got a hand in the air, then maybe this is the best time for you to step out of the room.

Fake Plastic Trees
I hate plastic Christmas trees. And I say the word hate with as much venom as I can muster. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. If you want to have a plastic tree, then that’s your choice. But, personally, I don’t see the point. Christmas for me (well, part of it anyhow) is coming down in the morning and getting that beautiful waft of Christmas tree smell. It’s having those pine needles all over the sitting room floor, and it’s watching the cat go mental chasing after them. Aside from the fact that it’s ugly and plastic, you just don’t get any of that with a fake tree.

Or the Real Thing
I’m sure there are downsides, ecologically and environmentally speaking, to having a real tree in my house at Christmas, and I really should look into them, but right now I’m pretty much just thinking: Christmas! Tree! Christmas! Tree!

Bron and I went to buy our tree last Friday. There’s a farm on the edge of Newquay that sells them, where we go each year. I don’t know where their trees come from – they don’t grow them themselves – but I figure at least this way I’m supporting the local community more than if I bought a tree from, say, B&Q.

Now, as you may have guessed by my earlier rant, in my world choosing the right Christmas tree is a serious business. There was uproar a few years ago, when I still lived at home, and my parents decided to buy a teeny tiny one that would sit on the coffee table. ‘I want a BIG tree!’ was pretty much the repeated refrain. I got used to the little one (kind of), but they’ve never taken that route again.

So come Friday, there Bron and I were, at the farm, going round looking very carefully at all the trees to find the most perfect one for our little home. After some very careful consideration – and after our running favourite got stolen away from under our noses by some other punter, the decision was made. Take it up to the barn and hand it over to the man, who pops it through his special machine to tie it all up.

Say No to Netting
Hang on a second, did I say tie it up? Yes, I did. And I knew it was going to happen – we’ve been there every year for the last four years, after all, but I just didn’t stop it. So now our lovely bright, fresh tree is wrapped up in plastic netting.

It’s a bit of a conundrum this one. Though, having said that, maybe it shouldn’t be. People have been buying trees and lugging them home in their unwrapped state for decades, why can’t we do that today? Because it’s easier to have it wrapped up. It goes in the car easier (or, in this case, Bron’s van) and it’ll lose fewer needles and twigs along the journey. So I get more for my money. Which is a good thing, right?

But what about all that plastic netting? Not just from my tree, but from the hundreds and thousands of trees that have been purchased in this country alone over the last couple of weeks. It’ll all go into the bin and off to the dump, and then we’ll all do the same thing again next year. What a waste.

And from this perspective, I have to wonder, are plastic trees really that bad? At least they go away into the attic at the end of the season each year. Oof. No. Sorry, I just can’t do it. But next year I will have to promise to be strong and take my tree as it comes. Maybe I should start a campaign: Say No to Netting.

A Real Plastic Tree?
On the side of alternative trees, though, here is one that I saw at the Eden Project a few days ago. It has a metal frame, but other than that it’s made entirely of plastic bags. Not only a cunning statement, but pretty effective. I’d love to see it all lit up in the evening.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Post!

Ah, post. Who doesn’t love getting post? Well, I’m not so keen on bills or scary looking letters from the Inland Revenue, but hand-written post is a different story. Post lets you know that someone is thinking of you, maybe that someone even loves you.

And what’s better than post? Parcels!

So when I dragged myself through the door after a long and frustrating day at work to find a parcel sitting on my doormat, my interest was immediately piqued. Hmm, I thought. I don’t recognise the hand-writing, so it’s not from my mum or anyone else I know…

In the world of post, is there anything better than a parcel? Well, duh: a parcel with chocolate in it of course!

‘I tried so hard to find chocolates without plastic,’ the accompanying card said. ‘And all the best ones were sealed up.’ I beg to differ: these chocolates are not only yummy, but organic and fair-trade, care of the Organic Seed and Bean Company. I’d take a picture of them for you if I hadn’t already ripped into the packet and eaten half of them.

And the mysterious benefactor of the chocolate? My MA tutor, Susy, to say thank you for giving her full-time students a tour of the bookshop I work in. Effectively, she’s sent me chocolate for doing my job – not that I’m going to send it back! Thank you Susy. It is a really nice and thoughtful thing to do.

But: here’s my dilemma. To tell her or not to tell her that, after all her effort and consideration into my plastic plight, her careful selection of chocolate without a plastic seal around the box – something that is much easier thought about than found – do I tell her that hidden away inside the cardboard the chocolate was sealed in plastic?

I do find it both sad and ironic that this particular chocolate company, having considered so carefully where they will source their fair-trade ingredients, how to flavour their product, and how to present it in as natural way as possible, have hidden the plastic away underneath. I know and understand that in many cases food products are sealed in plastic today for hygiene purposes, but surely that’s not really necessary with chocolate – it’s just what we’re used to these days, what we’re told we need. But do we really need it with everything?

And as I write this I’m wondering how psychological it all is, too. Is there a perception that the better items are those that are wrapped in plastic?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

How clean is your beach?


This is the plastic that Bron and I collected during our Sunday afternoon walk on the beach a couple of weeks ago.




This pile represents less than an hour of selective picking by the two of us – we left behind the big stuff, the water bottles and crisp packets and the things that I wasn’t prepared to touch without a nice, sanitary pair of (plastic?) gloves. And so this pile represents just the tip of the iceberg.


How clean is clean?
The beach that we collected this from – Fistral in Newquay, Cornwall – is a clean, tidy, well cared for beach. And yet look at what we found. As soon as you start to look a little closer, it’s right there staring at you.


Mermaid’s Tears
I think what surprised me the most were the nurdles. Perhaps more commonly known as mermaid’s tears, these are basically how raw plastic is transported: little plastic pellets that can then be melted down and melted together to make plastic items. I've included a five pence piece in this picture to give you an idea of their size. They’re tiny, they easily blend in with the sand, and you only notice them once you really start to look hard – and then they’re everywhere. It’s no wonder creatures so often mistake them for food.




And Bottle Tops
Aside from the nurdles, the other type of plastic that seemed to show up more than any other were these cover lids from, probably, bottles of water.



Collecting this plastic was certainly an interesting and useful exercise, but Bron asked me the ultimate question:

'What are you going to do with it now?'

I've had to put it in our bin, unfortunately - it really is not too nice and I'm sorry, but I don't want it lying around the house forever. I know I'm just adding to the waste pile, but my reasoning is that at least it'll be marginally better there than kicking around on the beach.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Praise be to Archie Browns!

We have an almost unspoken deal in our household that one person cooks and the other washes up. We don’t have a dishwasher, so we wash our dishes the old fashioned way: fairy liquid and a green scourer. Although it’s not actually that old fashioned when I come to think of it: the scourers come from the shop in plastic wrapping, the fairy liquid in a plastic bottle. And giving up doing the washing up isn’t exactly an option at the end of the day, no matter how much I wish it was.

Thank goodness for Archie Brown’s, then. This wonderful little health store and vegetarian cafĂ© opened up in Truro about a year ago. Before I decided to give up plastic I’d never been there, but in my search for plastic alternatives it was an obvious place to visit. The main ethic behind the store is to be eco and ethically friendly, so they sell a range of products from ethical make-up and beauty products to gluten free pasta, health supplements, and local veg.

Most of what they stock comes in plastic packaging, but the most beautiful thing I’ve discovered they do is Refills. Yes, Refills with a capital R. This is such a simple idea and I wish, wish, wish that there were more shops out there that do it and with a greater variety of products. As for Archie Brown’s, they do refills for cleaning products – laundry detergent, toilet cleaner, washing up liquid.

A few weeks back, when I first discovered them, I bought two plastic litre-sized bottles of their ‘Bio D’ washing up liquid. Yes, plastic, I know, but I’ve no intention of putting these bottles in the bin or the recycling because I’ll be taking back each bottle once it’s emptied and having it refilled from the tank in store. Wonderful! Not only does this save on packaging, but it’s cheaper too, and they only use ecological products such as Bio D, Ecoleaf, and Ecover.

And as for the green scourers? Lakeland saved me there: I bought a pack of four Lancashire cloths which came wrapped in a simple cardboard band. No plastic packaging and every time they start to get manky, instead of throwing them in the bin and opening a new packet, I simply stick them in the washing machine and start again.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Disaster! No More Ice Cream!

The Death of Ice Cream?
Noooo! I have just discovered that what I thought was a paper wrapping around my daily choc ice isn’t paper at all. It looks like paper, it feels like paper, and it tears like paper, but according to the box it’s actually plastic. And I thought choc ices were safe. What on earth am I going to do now?

The thought of going without ice cream after my dinner each evening feels me with so much dread I’m sure I’m having palpitations. Beads of sweat are breaking out on my forehead and my hands have started to shake.

To Ben and Jerry’s – or not ?
I can’t buy supermarket brand ice cream or brands like Carte D’or as they’re all in plastic tubs. Haagen Dazs has a plastic lid and even Ben and Jerry’s (mmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about their Baked Alaska) is a no-no. The tub may look like card, and although most of it is, paper and ice cream don’t really mix that well, so it’s coated in a virtually invisible layer of polyethylene to stop it from leaking. I guess that’s the same reason why the choc ices I’ve been buying are wrapped in plastic rather than paper, too.

Looking at Ben and Jerry’s website, though, I’m very impressed with the environmental attempts. Despite the plastic coating, their tubs are made of 90% renewable paper stock, they use water based inks for printing, and in their ‘scoop shops’ they’ve switched to corn-based cold drinks cups that are compostable. It’s not rocket science, and there’s still lots more that they can do, but at least they’re thinking about it and they’re trying. Which is more than I can say for Haagan Dazs – take a look at their website and there’s nothing about their environmental policies or their packaging.

So, are there any options left - at all?
In the meantime, though, on my last shopping trip I found myself staring, glassy-eyed at the range of ice cream and lolly goodness arrayed in the freezers in front of me. None if which I should allow myself to buy. Ice cream is out, Magnums are out, choc ices are now out. The supermarket brand cornettos say they use mixed materials for their wrappings, which probably means the same cup of tea as the Ben and Jerry tubs.

‘Oh, but they’re sooo yummy,’ the little voice in my head says.

‘But you mustn’t!’ my conscience rallies.

‘They’re not entirely plastic, though,’ the other voice says. ‘So it’s not all bad. Maybe buy them just this once more, and make them last a really long time so you can wean yourself off gradually…’

‘Dammit!’ the good voice says, as I look in the trolley again. ‘How did those cornettos sneak in there?’

Sunday, 29 November 2009

What Happened to my Toothbrush?

It is nearly four weeks since I ordered a ‘Natural Toothbrush’ to try – made from the root of the Araak tree rather than plastic (see my previous post, I'm a Pink Toothbrush). But there is no sign of it. I was so excited about trying this out, and now it doesn’t look I’m going to be able to.

Searching for the toothbrush truth

Well, I thought, I’ve got a copy of the receipt, I’ll just email them with my order number and find out what’s happened.

But: no reply, not a peep.

Humph.

Ok, so I’ll check out the website, make sure I’ve emailed the right address.

But the website no longer exists! Every which way I try to find it, whether through Google or typing the address into my browser, I get the same, stomach-dropping error message.

I check my bank statement. And yes, the payment has been deducted. But still no toothbrush, and no contact from the people I ordered it from.

Bigger humph.

So now what?
Have I been duped, I wonder? I can live with letting the £5 fee go - though I think it's more than a bit cheeky to take my money and then disappear off the edge of the planet - but what am I going to do about getting a new toothbrush now?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Olive Problem

Mmmm, olives are yummy. At least, I think they are – I know not everyone out there would necessarily agree.

There was a time when I bought fresh olives every week and would put them in my sandwich for lunch (I highly recommend them with a bit of Boursin and lettuce on tiger bread), but since July I've had to resist the temptation because, if you want them fresh, they come in little plastic tubs. It’s a bit like the takeaway issue (see my earlier post, Evil Take-out) – the tubs aren’t bad, you can clean them and reuse them, but they never last that long and always wind up in the bin eventually.

The Lunchbox Problem
My lunchbox as a whole has gone through quite a metamorphosis since I started giving up plastic. From a cling-film wrapped sandwich, a couple of Muller Star baby yoghurts, and a Mars bar, it now generally consists of a couple of pieces of bread and… well and nothing. Maybe that explains why I'm always hungry! I’ll add butter or some cheese to the bread when I get to work from my little stash in the staff fridge, then go and get a pastry from Baker Tom or the farmer’s market for something sweet.

Bread and cheese is all well and good, but it does get a little dull after a while. I looked up from my plate the other day to find everyone else in the staff room laughing at me. Apparently, watching me cut up the end of my slightly dried out goat’s cheese into evermore smaller pieces, and then laying them very carefully and precisely onto my measly looking slice of bread is the new and best entertainment in town. So hopefully you can understand it if I tell you I’ve been craving olives lately.

The Olive Solution
But how to have olives without the plastic?

Every Wednesday and Saturday the Farmer’s Market arrives in Truro. Not only do they have the best cake stall ever (The Cornish Mill and Bakehouse), but also the best olive stand. I don’t know their name, but they sell a variety of fresh olives, feta, and baklava. Mmmm.

So yesterday I went along to the olive stall well prepared.

‘I have a weird request.’ This is my standard opening statement to a lot of people these days.

‘I’d like to buy some olives, but would you mind if I used my own tub?’

Easy peasy. Apparently quite a few people bring along their own tubs. Yay! So yesterday I got to have bread and cheese and olives for lunch. Oh, and a chocolate brownie from the cake stall too.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Eden Project

On a recent visit to the Eden Project I was interested to see how they use plastic. I can’t help it, I’m starting to notice it everywhere. But the Eden Project was a real conundrum for me – there are some really interesting examples of where they are thinking about waste and plastic, and the opportunity to make the most of their waste and use alternatives to generally accepted practices.


WEEE
Here is the WEEE Man. ‘WEEE’ is Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. He’s basically made of the electrical stuff we chuck away when it stops working properly, from mobile phones to electronic mixers, to washing machines. You may not be able to see it all that clearly from the picture, but a whole chunk of what he’s made of is also plastic. Pretty scary.


Plastic Alternatives
I found this little display really interesting – a pity that it is tucked away in a part of the garden that I’m sure the majority of visitors miss. Picture yourself inside your car: how much of what you can see is made of plastic? So it’s interesting that designers are starting to think about alternatives – even if it’s mostly only from an economical point of view.

So, lots of good things that Eden is thinking about and drawing our attention to.

But then…
When you get to their shop there’s lots more examples of thoughtful and alternative ideas. But maybe the manufacturers haven’t entirely thought this process through. Here are just two examples.


1. The Eco Stapler. Doesn’t use staples and so cuts down on wastage. Great, but look at the amount of packaging they’ve put around it!


2. The Indy Bag. Encourage people to stop accepting plastic bags from stores, but take their own reusable ones. Great, but don’t sell them wrapped in a plastic bag!

Not quite as ecological as they set out to be, methinks.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Why I Hate Plastic

Wondering why I'm trying to give up plastic? What's so bad about plastic, after all?

Well, take a look at these videos on YouTube to see why, The World's Biggest Garbage Patch and Modern Marvels: Pacific Gyre

Or read this article in Tuesday's New York Times, Afloat in the Ocean, by Lindsey Hoshaw. Below is the second paragraph from Lidsey's article to give you a taster.

"Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool."

I can only hope it scares you enough to think about giving up plastic yourself. For me, it serves as a stark reminder for why I should keep putting in the effort.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Tortillas

I recently banned Bron from buying tortillas in the supermarket, because they come in plastic. Well, maybe banned is too strong a word, but I stopped buying them, and whenever he asked if we could get some I moaned about the plastic.

‘But I really miss them,’ he told me the other day.

‘So why don’t you try making them yourself?’ I said. ‘It can’t be that hard. And if it doesn’t work then I suppose we can get some as a treat.’ Which seemed to appease him. Surprisingly, actually, as he usually ignores my moaning about most other things he wants (don’t even mention supernoodles, for instance – this is a real bug-bear of mine that he just refuses to acknowledge).

And so to today. While I have been beavering away upstairs at one of my MA tasks, he has cooked up a batch of fresh tortillas using a recipe he found on the internet. And they are yummy. The yummiest tortillas I’ve ever eaten, I’ll tell you that much. There’s no way I’m ever going to buy them from the shop again – Bron’s are just too good!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Shampoo

No more bottles of shampoo
All my various bottles of shampoo are finally empty. I’ve eeked them out as long as possible, but I can’t hide from it any longer. How am going to wash my hair now? With raw egg, or shall I just let it get greasier and greasier until the natural cleaning kicks in?

This reminds me of way back in July, when I first embarked on this anti-plastic campaign. I wrote then about my first challenge: deodorant. Maybe you’ll remember my notes on the dreaded transition period. Well, while I was visiting Lush to purchase the solid deodorant I had the foresight to buy one of their shampoo bars as well, and it’s been sitting on my bathroom shelf ever since.

To Lush, or not to Lush
One of the side discoveries of the whole deodorant episode (I now use a crystal deodorant, which is amazing), was finding out Lush frequently use Propylene Glycol in their products. Propylene Glycol comes from petroleum, which is almost as bad as buying plastic itself – in my book, at least. So now I’m wondering, is this stuff in my shampoo bar, too?

Wait, wait… no! It doesn’t! Thank goodness for that. I am home and dry.

Shampoo Bar
So, out comes my ‘seanik’ shampoo bar. It’s quite small, smaller than the size of my palm, circular in shape, like a squashed sphere, and bright blue. Smells quite nice, though.

How does this work again? Just like soap: you rub it direct onto your hair and scalp, and voila. Froth. I’d been warned that they don’t really lather up, but this one is nice and foamy and my hair feels pretty clean already. And it’s got that nice clean squeak to it, too. Seems good so far, and my scalp hasn’t turned blue yet.

All I need now is a conditioner that will prevent my hair – which is quite long, very thick and pretty curly – from turning into an impenetrable bird’s nest every time I wash it. I still have a spray-on conditioner at the moment, but I don’t know what’ll happen when that runs out, and I’d rather not have to shave my head.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tom, Tom the Bakerman


Bread without the plastic wrapper
‘That smells amazing,’ my colleague, A, says as she walks into the staff room where I’m preparing my lunch: fresh rosemary foccacia, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in. Mmm, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. What could I do but give her some to taste?

The supermarket scenario
There really is nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread. You just don’t get that in the supermarket unless you get there early enough in the morning for the bakery to still be on the go, but then they wrap it and seal it plastic before they put it on the shelves, shutting the smell away.

Yeah, I know, they do have their little nods toward the old ways, with the baskets of fresh rolls you can choose from, but the only way to get them home is by dropping them in one of the provided bread bags: even those that are mostly paper usually have a clear plastic window in them, just in case you forget what you put in there.

And then there’s the bread brands: Hovis, Kingsmill, Supermarket-own; it’s impossible to buy these without the plastic bag. Which is why I now buy all my bread from Baker Tom.

Baker Tom
I walk in the door and there’s an array of bread baskets against the opposite wall, all the different smells leaping out at you. From your basic white, wholemeal or granary, to Irish soda bread, olive bread, cinnamon and raisin bread, even honey and lavender bread, Baker Tom makes it and Baker Tom sells it. It’s baked fresh every day, and they use organic and local ingredients wherever they can; there are no additives or preservatives, and if there’s anything left at all by the end of trade, it goes to the local homeless shelter.

I um and ah over whatever is left by the time I get there, and when I’ve finally made my decision, the assistant wraps it up in paper and, if it’s foccacia, puts it in a nice paper bag to stop the grease escaping. I hand over my 80p, or whatever is required that given day, and leave the shop a plastic-free and happy girl, trying not to be tempted by the Danish pastries, pain au chocolat, or almond tart cunningly laid on the desk by the till. All I have to do now is convert Bron.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I'm a Pink Toothbrush, You're a Blue Toothbrush

Is there such a thing as a plastic-free toothbrush?
Help! I need a new toothbrush! Desperately. But how on earth am I going to find one that's not plastic? I really don’t fancy having to use a twig to clean my teeth for evermore.

My trusty internet asearch engine is the only way forwatrd, and so off to Google I go. I type in ‘non plastic toothbrush’ expecting a total of zero results. But, aha! I am not the only plastic freak out here…

A little toothbrush history
According to The Daily Green: The Consumer’s Guide to the Green Revolution, “The toothbrush as we know it was invented in the 15th century in China and was originally concocted of boar's hair or horsehair and bamboo or bone…

“If you consider that the average human life expectancy today is about 78 years and then multiply that by the times one might replace a toothbrush (every 4 months or so) you get a grand total of 312 toothbrushes used and then discarded by any given individual during his or her time on the planet.”

That doesn’t sound horrendous on its own, but when you consider how many people there are on the planet, well, it really starts to add up.

So what alternatives are actually out there?

With a little perseverance, I find there’s quite a selection of biodegradable and/or natural toothbrushes to choose from: Peelu, Acca Kappa, Swissco. None of them are quite perfect, but here are my top finds:

1. Radius: made from wood or flax, or even dollar bills, with changeable heads. But the heads and bristles are plastic and nylon. Though this is better than nothing because at least I’d only be throwing away half a toothbrush each time, rather than a whole one.

2. Preserve: made from recycled plastic. They come in a reusable travel case instead of regular packaging, plus you can send them back to the manufacturer afterwards to be recycled again, into park benches and the like. This is brilliant, though I do wonder whether constant recycling is really solving the problem. But it’s a good start and it offers a lot more than your regular toothbrush. And apparently I can pop down to my local Sainsbury’s to get one; handy.

3. Wooden toothbrush: with natural bristles from allthingsgreen.net "The head of each toothbrush is covered with a small piece of biodegradable plastic for hygiene reasons and secured with a paper/metal clip that is 100% recyclable," the site tells me. This seems to tick all my boxes - except they’re a whopping £9 each.

The Natural Toothbrush

Finally: jackpot! The Natural Toothbrush is literally what it says: made from the root of the Araak tree. And it resembles… well, a twig. As far as I can tell from the website, you peel off the bark and chew the ‘bristles’ inside. You don’t even need toothpaste because the fibres contain all sorts of natural nutrients. The tree it comes from is widespread in the Middle East which, theoreticall at leasty, means that taking these twigs shouldn’t cause too much undue harm.

Bron walks in while I’m looking at the website. ‘How much is it?’ he asks.

‘£1.99’

‘Cool. Get one. And get one for me, too.’

Wow, I’m gobsmacked. This’ll be one of my easiest Bron conversions yet, and tough to ignore.

‘It’ll still come in a plastic pouch, though.’ I say.

‘Of course they will. They’ve got to, for hygiene,’ he reminds me.

I know he’s right, it’s just a bit annoying. But I let impulse take hold, and click the magic button on the computer, ordering one for each of us. So much for saying I'm not prepared to clean my teeth with a twig.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bron's Breakfast

In the three plus years that Bron and I have been together, I’ve never known him to have more than a banana for his breakfast before going to work in the morning. Actually, neither of us have ever really bothered with breakfast, as that little bit of extra sleep has always won out over food. But suddenly, since being made redundant in August, he’s discovered the power of breakfasting.

It sounds like a good thing – and it is a good thing, I suppose. That mysterious ‘they’ always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all. Except that Bron’s new breakfast fetish means he - or we - have started buying three key ingredients we never really bought before: milk (plastic bottle), Kellogg’s Special K cereal (cardboard box, but plastic bag inside), and walnuts (plastic bag). Not exactly reducing our plastic intake.

How did this happen? I can’t exactly stop him, but I must admit I feel somewhat annoyed about it.

And then I find myself pouring out a bowl of cereal when I get home from work, ‘Just to tide me over until tea is ready.’ Damn! So now I’m helping him get through this plastic badness even quicker. Besides which, I’ve been reading Felicity Lawrence’s book ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ which has some very bad things indeed to say about cereals. I feel so wrong on so many counts, but temptation is such a hard thing to conquer.

I must try harder to convince Bron of his evil plastic and breakfasting ways, except my track record on this count is rather slim to date as he seems to have developed immunity to my charms. I guess he knows me too well and can see what’s coming… I’ll have to think up some new tactics.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pen and Ink

‘What’s up with your hands?’ Bron asks as he comes in the door. I look down, wondering what he means, when I remember: ah, yes, my fingertips are kinda blue right now…

Okay, so I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart. While I may be computer friendly and blog happy, I still like to use a more traditional writing method on occasion. I have my writing routine, of course: a propeller pencil for rough stuff; a black gel ink pen for the neat. But the other day I suddenly found I’d run out of leads for the pencil, and all of my pens had dried up and so into the bin they had to go.

Most pens these days pretty much represent the epitome of our throwaway culture: use them once and then they’re done. Plus all these throwaway pens are made of plastic, of course. So when my last pen ran out I thought, easy, I’ll dig out my old fountain pen. It wasn’t far either, just sitting in my pencil case, waiting to be rediscovered. But, alas, my fountain pen uses cartridges. Plastic cartridges. Are these any better than buying a new pen every couple of months I wondered? It’s probably 50:50. At least they’re smaller, but maybe this means I’ll go through them quicker. And besides plastic is plastic at the end of the day, isn’t it?

How am I going to get around this one, I wondered. I wasn’t quite prepared to resort to using a feather quill. In the end, I took myself off to WHSmith to see whether or not you can still buy traditional, refillable fountain pens with little glass pots of ink. Well, you can, sort of. Instead of having to buy a whole new pen, I came out with a ‘cartridge converter.’ It fits in my Parker pen just like a cartridge does, except it’s got a little mechanism built into it that enables me to refill it every time it’s empty. It’s made of plastic, of course, but at least it’s going to be staying in my pen for the foreseeable future.

As for my propeller pencil, new leads come in little plastic tubes, packaged on cardboard, but with a plastic bubble over the top. I can’t do it, can’t buy this, it’s silly when there are plenty of perfectly good wooden pencils in the world. I go home and take a peek in my pencil case: yes, there’s one already in there. But wait: shock! Horror! It’s made of plastic! How weird.

On closer inspection, it turns out that this pencil – a left over stocking filler from last Christmas - is made of recycled plastic. So that’s where all those plastic bottles go. I wonder how many bottles it takes to make one pencil? It looks like it needs a good sharpen, though, and so it’s back to the shops for me. I’ll just get a nice little silver sharpener, I think. Of course, it’s not that simple. WHSmiths has loose plastic sharpeners, or packaged metal ones. Why aren’t the metal ones loose? They’re no more in need of protection than plastic ones – less if anything, seeing as they’re considerably less brittle. Eventually I choose the metal one that comes with slightly less packaging, even though it’s a little more expensive.


My cartridge converter came in plastic, too, as did the bottle of ink. The pot of ink is in a glass bottle – great – but the sheer amount of plastic wrapped around it gave me a bit of a scare. In the end I bought it, figuring the pot would last me a while, at least, and in the meantime I can try sourcing pots without the packaging. When I got home, I opened it up with glee, ready to fill up the special cartridge – and forgot about how messy ink is and how easily it spreads itself around on desks and over fingers. Well, at least I haven’t knocked the bottle flying. Yet.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Visitors

Our friend, M, was on the phone in tears the other night. She is genuinely one of the unluckiest people I have ever met. To cut a long story short, she was suddenly homeless. Panic had set in: she’d have to sell her new business and go back north to live with her mum.

‘Don’t do that!’ we told her. ‘Come and stay with us for a couple of weeks until you can get things sorted out.’

And so that’s how we came to have her and her three year old little boy, K, staying with us. A bit of a shock to the system, and in more ways than one. For starters, K is 25% cute, 75% whirlwind. But the other side of the story is that M, like most of our friends, has no idea of my plastic obsession.

I admit it right now, it’s a bit mean of me, and if she ever reads this blog I hope she’ll forgive me, but when she went out the other day, I made a little list of all the stuff that’s appeared in our kitchen and bathroom that I no longer buy. Actually, it was quite a long list. Which made me feel really good about myself. Maybe I’m doing better with this no plastic deal than I thought I was.

I won’t list everything I found - that would be far from fair to M. But in the meantime, I’m planning on making the most of consuming all these hitherto forbidden foods that have appeared in their plastic trays and wrappings in my little kitchen: strawberries, grapes, croissants, scotch pancakes, and meringues. Mmmm.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Curses!

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how much over-packaging there is in the world. At Bron’s barbecue at the beginning of August, one friend turned up with a big pack of beer – something like 24 cans all in one box. Sounds great – after all, buying in bulk is usually better because it cuts down on packaging, and thus on rubbish, in the long run. But what really threw me was the fact that this perfectly adequate cardboard box was wrapped in plastic. Why? It just seems so completely unnecessary – what purpose does it really serve when the cardboard box alone does everything you need it to, i.e. hold all the cans together. And the more I think about it, the more I see it going on.

At this point in time I should probably admit to falling off the plastic wagon with our shopping again yesterday. Baked beans were the main culprit this time. This time, rather than the peer pressure of the cheese, it came down to economics. A single tin of Heinz baked beans costs 65p. Or I could buy two packs of four tins for £3. The math is obvious: 8 tins at 65p each comes to £5.20. Of course, the tins in each pack are kept together by plastic wrapping.

Again, there was the umming and ahhing, the dilly-dallying, but the money side won out. As someone who lives on quite a small budget, it was probably inevitable, but I do feel annoyed about it. What annoys me most – other than the fact that I let the special offer win out over my plastic challenge – is the fact that it’s perfectly feasible to pack the tins together in paper rather than plastic. Companies do it often enough with tomatoes, with beer, why not baked beans?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cut Plastic: Get a Veg Box

Caterpillars? Yummy, just what every good diet needs.

Or not: I now feel a little scared to eat my broccoli without completely mushing it up to make sure it really is just broccoli. But, that said, caterpillars are the only downside I’ve come across with ordering a weekly veg box.

Riverford Farm is my new big thing. Bron and I have been ordering fruit and vegetables from them since the start of summer, and they are amazing. Each week a beautiful cardboard box almost miraculously appears in my shed, full of organic vegetables that are so fresh they still have the earth on them. Oh, and the occasional caterpillar.

Even better than the vegetables (and eggs, and bread, and wine) is Riverford’s packaging policy. Send the veg box back each week and it gets re-used. Tomatoes and mushrooms arrive in lovely little cardboard punnets that can go in your recycling, or can be re-used as seed trays, for storage, or for your child to make that robot they’ve been going on about for the last three days. Bananas, apples, courgettes, and that caterpillary broccoli all come in paper bags.

I’ve never received that bane of vegetable packaging, the plastic punnet, but I should probably confess that they do, on occasion, use plastic bags. But it's not an absolute disaster because Riverford recycles them. Therefore, I don’t count them as plastic entering my home because I know it’s only on a temporary basis. They never go anywhere near my bin: I simply send them back with the empty box. I’m always wondering how much of the plastic that goes out with my recycling actually gets recycled, but by sending these bags back to their source, I feel confident that they really are.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Evil Take-out

This first hint of badness was when Bron got into the car carrying a plastic bag.

‘I asked her not to put it in a plastic one,’ he said. ‘But she said she really had to because the paper one wouldn’t hold it.’ I looked at what he was handing me: a bog standard, weak white carrier bag, inside of which was a classic, brown paper bag. Inside the paper bag was our food.

Other than fish and chips, the last time we had takeaway was when we moved to our current abode last October, so it’s not exactly a common occurrence in our household. But a couple of weeks ago, we were driving back from a visit to Totnes, it was late and we were tired and hungry and really didn’t want to cook, so we decided to treat ourselves. Indian won the coin toss. Stupidly, I didn’t even think about what our food was going to come in when I made this decision.

Why bother using a paper bag at all if you’re going to insist on putting that inside a plastic bag afterwards? That’s already twice as much out packaging than is necessary.

The worst shock came when I looked inside the paper bag, though. I had completely forgotten that Indian takeaway comes in plastic containers.

‘I know,’ Bron said. ‘But you can re-use them’. Which is true, and we are, but it’s left me wondering. How many people out there have takeaway like this on a regular basis? For starters, that’s a whole lot of plastic boxes that are being put into circulation. And how many of those people actually re-use their containers? Washing them that first time can be tricky because of the oils in Indian cooking, and there are probably lots of people who can’t be bothered. Plus, if they get takeaway every week, then that’s a lot of plastic containers sitting in their cupboards – probably more than they know they’re going to use. So how many wind up in the bin?

The other thing I’ve been wondering is how hygienic is it to repeatedly use these containers? There are tales of chemicals leaking out of plastic containers into the food they’re storing, especially if you’re using them in the microwave. They get scratched after a while, which makes them harder to clean, and it’s just a general downhill rollercoaster as far as I can see.

So what’s the solution? I don’t know; maybe the only solution is don’t have takeaway. I can manage that, but what about everyone else out there? And what would happen to the take-out businesses?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Plastic or Chemicals?

I’ve got a terrible sweet tooth. Chocolate, cake, you name it, I’d probably eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could.

Chocolate-free plastic is fairly easy to come across. More and more confectioners are packaging their chocolate bars in plastic ‘stay-fresh’ wrapping (err, why? It’s not exactly as if chocolate goes off, after all, is it?), but if I avoid snack bars like Mars and go straight for the proper slabs of chocolate I’m pretty safe. The paper-clad brands are usually more expensive, but they’re also usually the organic or fair trade brands, so although it costs me a little more, I feel better for buying it, and better for eating it too.

Sugar for home baking, though, is a different story.

Sugar Sweet
I am standing in the baking goods aisle, one bag of sugar in one hand, one bag in the other hand.

Bron just looks at me. I think he’s really starting to get fed up with my whole indecisive nature, although you’d think he’d have gotten used to it by now.

‘It’s supposed to be about plastic,’ I say to him. ‘So I should get this one. Right?’ I hold up my left hand. The bag I’m holding is made of paper. Perfect. Right?

‘But do you really want to be eating the chemicals?’ he asks.

‘Well, I always have white sugar in my tea at work, don’t I? So what difference is it really going to make?’

He raises his eyebrows at me.

I’m starting to feel a bit self conscious; I’m sure that all the customers around me have been listening to my little rant and are now skirting their trolleys in as wide a berth as they can manage.

‘I’m not even sure that they do add bleach to it,’ I say, lifting up the paper bag again. ‘It’s just that that’s what I’ve always thought. Raw sugar’s got to be better for you, hasn’t it? Because it hasn’t been processed.’ I’m going over old ground again. What I really wish is that Bron would make the choice for me, but I’ve learnt by this point in our relationship that that probably isn’t going to happen. At least, not unless he gets really pissed off at me. I wonder how far I can push it? But the supermarket on a Friday evening probably isn’t the best time to test that.

A pound of golden, copper-coloured raw cane sugar in my right hand, packaged in plastic; a pound of white caster sugar in my left hand, packaged in paper. They are both fair trade, so we’re on equal ground as far as that goes. Raw, or unrefined sugar, means that it contains more of its natural minerals, and that it hasn’t got any of the extra chemicals that get added to it during the refining process, such as phosphoric acid. Or the dreaded plastic bag.

I am koo-keed down, knees bent, balancing on my toes, literally weighing up the pros and cons of each sugar both in my head and in my hands. I want raw cane sugar in a paper bag. But, of course, I can’t have that. That would be too simple. So which is it going to be?

Plastic or chemicals?
It seems so unfair that I have to choose between the two – why can’t I have my unrefined sugar in a paper bag? Obviously it’s possible to supply sugar in paper, because of this other brand that’s on the shelf.

In the end, I choose the unrefined sugar in the plastic bag, and it was a choice I really didn’t like to have to make. But it’s set me a new challenge for the coming days: source the right sugar in the right packaging from another store. Even if Sainsbury’s doesn’t do it, hopefully one of my local health stores will.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Mmm, Salty

'That is ******* disgusting. I am not using that.'

Ah, the immortal words of Bron.

And what spawned them? Toothpaste. Yes, indeed. Well, to be more specific, Weleda's salt toothpaste. This is my latest 'less plastic' aquisition - it's less plastic because it comes in an aluminium tube, rather than the typical Colgate plastic one. Although it still has a plastic screw-top lid, so it's not ideal.

And he's right: it is disgusting, but hey, I've bought it now so I'd better knuckle down and use it. Though, if Bron is going to refuse to help me out, it may take a while to get through it. Yikes. Maybe I'll get used to it? At least Weleda make a whole range of natural toothpastes so at least next time I can choose a different one... Although it does occur to me that as there's still a plastic lid invloved maybe I should keep looking for something else that is even less plastic. Or admit to the fact that perhaps I'll just have to go back to basics and make my own.

Unless that tastes even worse...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Eco Warriors

When I first started this blog I wanted to call it 'A Life Less Plastic,' but - darn it - someone else beat me to it. My first thought was 'argh!' but my second was 'oh good, at least I'm not the only one.' And now I know that that is such a long, long way from the truth: there are loads of people out there with the same idea, and most of them seriously put me to shame. In fact, my rather meagre attempts so far have left me feeling rather pathetic compared to everyone else out there.

So, I'm going to add a list of other blogs to check out. There's a myriad of green bloggers out there and I'm pretty sure I've only just scratched the surface, so right now I'm going to keep my links to just those that involve plastic or waste, rather than general eco-blogs - well, except for one in particular that I really liked, Planting Milkwood, which is all about water resources and permaculture, and which made me feel very jealous.

A couple of the links are no longer being updated, but they've got some really interesting information and ideas in them that I want to read in greater detail some time soon. Take a look at Junk, for instance, which is about sailing to Hawaii on a boat made of plastic bottles.

I also really like 365 Days of Trash, which is about one guy and his family trying to create zero waste. Yup, I definately think I need to start working harder - especially after last night's party, which has resulted in me having to change both the bin bag and the recycling boxes three days earlier than usual. It really is scary how much waste a group of just 10 or so people can create in only one afternoon.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Say Cheese

I am standing in the supermarket aisle. Dairy produce. Artificial lighting glares down at me and the surrounding fridges hum as blinkered shoppers trundle past, pushing their metal trolleys full of brightly packaged goods.

A myriad of cheeses are trying to attract my eye: soft cheese, grated cheese, fancy cheese, goat cheese, even little mini cheeses. There is milk, there is butter, margarine, yoghurts, and cream.

‘Cheese,’ Bron reads off the scribbled shopping list in his hand.

I want the organic cheddar that is sealed in simple waxy paper. Bron wants the ‘plastic’ cheese: floppy, processed cheese slices. I’m not sure how much actual cheese they contain. A pack of ten for 99p, each slice individually sealed in its own little protective plastic cocoon. I can see myself tearing off this outer layer and reverently laying my plastic slice across the top of my freshly barbecued burger; I can see the edges of it melting and melding with my tomato sauce, and I can taste its fake cheesey goodness as I bite through the soft roll and into the hot burger. I can’t help but salivate.

I want the plastic cheese too.

But I’m not supposed to be buying plastic if I can possibly avoid it.

‘We could get this one,’ I say, holding up the organic cheddar. ‘And slice it up really thinly so that it melts properly over the burgers.’

‘Uh-huh,’ Bron looks at me.

‘Or we could grate it. That would work, wouldn’t it?’

‘Maybe.’

I’m grasping at straws – even Bron knows what I really want is the plastic cheese.

‘Do you think people would really care?’ The group of friends we’ve invited to Bron’s birthday barbecue probably have quite specific expectations as to what will be provided for their eating enjoyment.

Bron is not going to commit either way. Damn. He really, really wants the plastic cheese. It is his birthday, I tell myself.

‘Ok, but we won’t ever buy it again,’ I say tossing it into our trolley as quickly as I can. I already feel guilty. But then: ‘We’d better get two packs to make sure we’ve got enough to go around.'

Oops.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Aarghh! (aka, Skincare part 2)

I always knew this no plastic thing wasn’t going to be easy, but that little voice inside me kept on hoping it wouldn’t really be that complicated when it came down to it.

Firstly, The Soap
This is disappearing far too rapidly for my purse strings to keep hold of, so no matter how nice it is I won’t be buying it again. I visited two of my three local health shops yesterday and had a good peruse of all the different products and came out with a soap produced by a company called Faith in Nature. I’d never heard of them before, but it didn’t come in a wrapper, it smelt nice, it was a reasonable price, and it’s got aloe vera in it, so I figured it would be a good bet, and it seems to be quite nice so far, although I feel very squeaky after using it. Yet, following my tutor’s revelations about product ingredients (see below), I’ll be looking into what actually goes into my soaps before I buy any more.

Secondly, The Deodorant
A Transition Period. Yes, there certainly is a transition period. I don’t really smell nasty, but there is definitely something different going on under my arms. Over the weekend they started to feel a bit funny, and then a bit more funny, and then last night they developed a full blown rash. Yuck. I blamed the new deodorant straight away, deciding I’d have to try one of the other ones Lush has on offer. But first I was a bad girl - worried about going to work with no deodorant on, I succumbed to temptation and put on a little bit of my old antiperspirant. I know I shouldn’t have, and I felt guilty about it all day, but I really didn’t want to smell.

After work, I went back to Lush to look at their other options. One of the girls came over and started talking to me, so I told my sorry tale. What did she say? ‘Transition Period.’ She suggested that it’s more likely to be the exiting toxins causing my rash than the deodorant. I said maybe she was right, seeing as it wasn’t an immediate reaction, but anyway I found the deodorant block I had been using to be really hard and difficult to apply, as it has a sort of crust on it (yes, not too pleasant, I grant you). Apparently, though, you’re supposed to slice this bit off to reveal a fresh, smooth inside.

I should persevere, she said. Ok, I said, but until my rash goes away I want something else to interchange with the block. I came out with deodorising ‘coconut powder’, which is a bit like talc. But then comes more guilt, because of course talc needs to be kept in a little pot. It’s a cardboard pot, so that’s something, but it’s got a plastic top and bottom. I told myself I can reuse the pot for something else when it’s empty, and that I really needed it, and that I’ll find something else for next time. And it is really nice, and feels soft on my skin, but now I’m telling myself it should only be a one-off purchase to ease this sticky transition. Because packaging is packaging at the end of the day.

And then, to add insult to injury, when I get home there’s a comment from my college tutor, S, subtly hinting at the fact that maybe Lush isn’t the best way to go. Yeah, thanks S. She’s absolutely right, though, because a little investigation led to the discovery that a lot of Lush’s products use something called Propylene Glycol. And what’s propylene glycol? No, not a plastic. But it is a petroleum derivative. That means oil. Maybe the main idea behind this whole exercise is to be plastic free, but what’s the point in being plastic free if the products I use are bad to the environment in other ways?

Thirdly, the Suncream
Only one of the three companies I emailed about my suncream search has got back to me so far. Thank you Love Lula. Lula recommended a sun lotion her website sells that is made of organic and natural ingredients, plus it comes in a glass bottle. Yippee! Right?

Lula’s sun lotion, as lovely as it sounds, is a whopping £28.50 a bottle. Now, that might possibly be worth it if it was a normal sun-cream sized bottle. This one, however, contains so little actual lotion that I’d probably use the whole thing up in just one sunny day. Maybe when I win the lottery… And I’m assuming, by the lack of response from Spiezia and Lavera, that they don’t have the right answer to my question. Hence the aarghhh.

Right now it seems to me that nobody does the whole package when it comes to ethical skincare: all the right ingredients without the packaging and at an affordable price. This is only the beginning, though, so I’m going to try and stay positive. There are a couple of other companies on my radar that I’m going to check out, and I’ve decided to not buy anything else like this (unless I have to) until I get to The Big Green Gathering – I’m holding out hope that there will be lots of things to choose from there that will meet all my needs. Please?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Challenge 2: Sun Protection

Euch. I have just spent the last hour trawling the internet trying to find some sun cream that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic, and I’m feeling entirely disheartened. Bron and I are off to a festival in a couple of weeks time – The Big Green Gathering – and sun protection is an absolute must. Aside from the obvious issues with skin cancer, etc, I always burn. Yes, my skin generally has two tones: white or red.

I was hoping to be able to find a solid cream, like Lush’s solid shampoo, or at least something that comes in a glass bottle, but haven’t been able to find anything. There are a couple of companies I found that come near, but not quite. Spiezia Organics make a range of skincare products that use purely organic ingredients with no chemicals or additives, plus most of their products come packaged in glass. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And yes it is, except that they don’t seem to make any sun block – after-sun, yes, great, but not the protection you need beforehand.

I also found a company called Lavera that, again, make skincare products without the yuck. But it looks like all their products come in plastic tubes or plastic bottles. There is a sun protection spray that looks promising, but I can’t tell from the picture whether it’s in a plastic or a glass bottle. I’ve emailed them to ask, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be plastic.

And then there’s Badger, who’ve got a great range of balms for all sorts of things. You can buy some of them in Boots. For the most part they come in little metal tins - they’re pretty good and they do what they say on the tin. If you ever have trouble sleeping I can definitely recommend their sleep balm. However, like Spiezia, they only do an after-sun balm – there is a sun protection lotion, but as it’s not a solid balm it comes in a little plastic tube. They do an anti-bug balm, though, so I’m thinking I’ll see if I can a pot of that, as I’m sure there’ll be some midges to contend with at the festival.

But that still leaves me without any sun cream. With any luck, one of the companies I’ve tried contacting will get back to me with some good news, but if not then I’m afraid the plastic will not be able to be avoided. If I do have to buy plastic, though, I’ll be making sure that it’s an ethical product that contains only natural ingredients.

The New Deodorant

‘A transition period? What sort of transition period?’ I ask the assistant in Lush. She is explaining to me that swapping from a plastic-packaged chemical antiperspirant to one of their more natural deodorant bars may not be as simple as I thought.

‘Well, because you’ve been using an antiperspirant, there’ll be a build-up of sweat toxins that are waiting to come out, so you may find that in the first couple of weeks these will all be released,’ she explains.

‘So basically I’m going to smell?’

‘Err… yeah. But don’t worry,’ she adds hastily, ‘it’ll only be for a bit until your body gets used to the change. I just have to warn you in case you think it’s not working.’

Hmm, maybe the middle of July isn’t the best time to try this? But now is as good as ever. I’ll know the transition period has kicked in when everyone at works starts sitting on the opposite side of the staff room from me at lunch time…

Challenge 1: Skincare

The first real challenge arrived a few days ago. I knew it was coming, but I spent several days in denial beforehand, wondering whether I could possibly get away with ignoring it and just buying what I usually do.

I’ve never really used shower gels, but instead for the last couple of years I’ve been washing with aqueous cream. I have a tendency to get patches of eczema, so aqueous cream is great because it’s soft and doesn’t dry out your skin like soap can. Also it’s pretty cheap at only £1.99 for a big tub full. But those nice big tubs? They’re plastic of course.

I struggled for several days thinking about what I could use instead – something moisturising to protect against eczema won’t come back, but that doesn’t come delivered in a plastic bottle, and ideally as packaging free as possible. Regular soap, maybe? It’s easy to find soap in just a paper wrapper, but what effect would this have on my skin? At first I thought about making my own, so I went to the health shelves in the bookstore where I work and found some books on natural beauty.

These books have got lots of interesting hints and tips, but boy does it sound time consuming. And expensive. Aside from getting hold of the various ingredients (whilst trying to avoid the inevitable plastic packaging), there’s a whole list of equipment that you need just to get started. I wound up having a good moan to my friend, C, about it. And she said: ‘Lush.’ And I said: ‘Lush? Really?’ Because I walk past the door of our local Lush store everyday and I have never once been tempted to go inside. In fact, more often than not, I complain about the smell emanating from the doorway. But C said: ‘Really.’

So I went to Lush. And guess what? I was quite impressed. Solid shampoo that doesn’t come in a bottle, lots of nice moisturising soaps and creams, and even solid deodorant. Lots of their products are solid so don’t come in anything other than waxed paper, plus if you do buy something in a tub, you can return said tub when it’s empty and the Lush team recycle them. What a genius concept: so simple, really, when you think about it. Why don’t more retailers do this?

So, I chose a soap, great, but I also came out with new deodorant. I’ve been using the same brand of antiperspirant for a good ten years simply because it’s the one that worked for me so I kept buying it. A roll-on in a little plastic pot. But as soon as I stopped to think about it (thank you, C) I realise what an antiperspirant really is: anti = against, + perspirant = sweat; ‘against sweat’. All these years I’ve literally been preventing my body from performing its natural function of sweating. That can’t be good, surely. The Lush assistant explained to me that by using antiperspirants we prevent our bodies from sweating, which results in a build-up of toxins inside that can’t get out through their normal escape route – and there have been some tentative links made between this and the occurrence of breast cancer. Goodbye antiperspirant, hello deodorant bar.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

My Big Bad Plan

The big question is where to start. There’s lot of plastic in my life right now, a lot more than I ever really think about on a daily basis. Food, toiletries, cleaning products, you name it and it’s probably been wrapped in plastic at some point during it’s life.

The fact is, I’m too much of a chicken to turn around and change everything all at once. This is because (a) Bron would probably have a heart attack, (b) it would probably be quite expensive, and (c) I figure that too much change in one go is less likely to stick in the long term. Little steps, one challenge at a time, is much easier to contemplate.

So, my Big Bad Anti-Plastic Plan is simple: each time I need to replace something, whether it’s a loaf of bread or a toothbrush, I’ll try to find that item without plastic. If you’re superstitious, keep your fingers crossed for me, and hopefully it really will be that simple!

Before We Begin...

If I’m going to find a way of not letting any plastic into my home or my life, there’s a certain set of assumptions I’ll have to work from. I’ve thought quite long and hard about these over the last few weeks, and tried to apply some logic to it. So here goes…

1. I’m not going to start throwing out everything made of plastic that's already in my home. That would mean getting rid of the casing of this computer that I’m writing on, which definitely isn’t going to work. Besides, throwing plastic out just for the sake of it is only going to make matters worse – it’s only going to add to the piles of waste that are already out there, and it’ll be wasting the products that are within those plastic bottles and bags. So, I’ll work my way through all those little bottles of bubble bath sitting on my bathroom shelf, and when they’re empty I’ll save the bottles to use for something else or I’ll recycle them. What I will be doing is not buying any more to add to the collection.

2. There may be certain things that it’s not practical or appropriate to give up, or possible to avoid. Hopefully there won’t be too many circumstances that fall into to this category, but the main thing I’m thinking of here is medication and medical equipment. I'm fortunate that I'm a young and healthy individual and don’t rely on medication for anything, except for the occasional allergy such as hayfever. But if something should go wrong and I or my partner need medical care, I won’t be turning that down if they bring out a plastic tube or something wrapped in a plastic bag.


3. I will try and talk to people about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what my aims are, but I’m not going to force it upon them. And I’m not going to expect my friends to try and avoid things that come in plastic for my sake – if they want to then that’s great, the more people I can get involved the better. I know some of them will, but I also know some of them won’t, and the last thing I want to do is ostracise them. So if I go to a friend’s house for dinner and they produce salad from a bag, I’m going to eat up, thank you very much. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s their rubbish after all, and they’d probably produce it whether I was there or not. Maybe I can convert a few along the way though!

4. On the subject of friends, there’s my boyfriend, Bron. We live together and so he’s going to be involved in the changes I make whether he likes it or not, but I’m not going to force him to make all the same changes for himself unless he wants to. I really hope he will want to, of course, but I know certain things are going to take longer for him to come around to than others. He’s happy to watch me try, though, which is great, and he’ll have to come along for the ride if we’re buying anything that we share, such as food, but if it’s his personal things (shampoo for instance), then I’ll leave that decision up to him.

Ok, well I think that’s it. At least, I hope that’s it...

A Life Less Plastic

I’ve been thinking about plastic more and more over the last few years. The evils of the plastic bag had been on my radar for some time, but you know how it is, you just think ‘Everybody else is using them, is it really going to make a difference if I stop?’

Then I read ‘The World Without Us’ by Alan Weisman. Seriously, I would recommend this book to anyone. And in that book there’s a whole chapter about plastic. Not just plastic bags, but all sorts of different types of plastic and the horrible things they’re doing to the environment. I was shocked. And that’s not really a strong enough word – try 'disgusted'.

I’ve always thought of myself as being fairly environmentally aware, even though I know I don’t live a particularly ethical lifestyle, but there are some things in this book that I hadn’t ever thought about before. But what could I possibly do about it? Well, at the end of the day, I figure you’ve got to start small, and the most obvious place to begin is to stop buying plastic in the first place: if I’m not buying it, then I won’t be throwing it away either.

So here I am and this is my blog on giving up plastic. Well, trying to give up plastic, anyway. I guess time will tell to see how I do, and how possible it even is in this world of modern convenience. I’m feeling pretty determined, though.