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.


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.

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


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


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.