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.