Zero Waste & Plastic Free Bloggers to follow

package free grocery shopping

Oh the world of Zero Waste/Plastic Free can be a beautiful one: full of gorgeous waste -free interiors and kitchen shelves stocked with glass jars holding package-free food. But, even the most photogenic blogs reveal a serious side to them. Those Zero Waste bloggers that I follow are working very hard to reduce their impact on the environment. Whether it’s avoiding all packaging and taking only glass jars and canvas bags to the store; reducing cosmetics to a bare minimum, or refusing all things plastic, their blogs carry a serious message and call to action. Here is a selection of my favourites:

Zero Waste Home

inspirational reads: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Bea Johnson is author of ‘Zero Waste Home’. Her book (and blog) is full of practical tips on how to eliminate waste in your house. For example she goes shopping with bags and glass jars and doesn’t accept any packaging. Being French (although living in California), she also has an amazing minimalist wardrobe, and wears only home-made and packaging free cosmetics. An online tour of her home also shows that she practices what she preaches:

Plastic is Rubbish

Blogger Polythene Pam is passionate about plastic – and avoiding it. The British blogger behind Plastic is Rubbish went plastic free in 2006 and hasn’t looked back. Her blog is packed with useful information and campaigns. She also has a very comprehensive directory of where to purchase non-plastic items and how to avoid packaging.

plastic-is-rubbish blog

Treading my own Path

On the other side of the world Lindsay Miles writes the blog Treading my Own Path and is author of e-book ‘That’s A Wrap – the eGuide for Plastic-Free Living’. Lindsay takes some beautiful photographs and it’s worth following her Instagram account here too  For a snapshot of ‘a day in the life’ try this blog post here.

Zero Waste Chef

I really like the Zero Waste Chef, Anne Marie Bonneau. She subscribes to a packaging-free life and cooks without waste, yet she does it in a very human way. She has a tiny kitchen (see the post here) and admits when she’s made mistakes. She also writes a lot about fermentation and runs webinars.

Trash is for Tossers

Lauren Singer has been living trash free for four years and is one of the best known zero waste campaigners (along with Bea Johnson and Beth Terry from myplasticfreelife). She lives in New York and, okay, is one of those bloggers who has a photogenic life. But she is also very serious about her lifestyle choices, runs a small company selling organic, vegan cleaning products and has a host of zero waste tutorials on her youtube channel.

I also want to make a special mention for two blogging friends, Jen at mymakedoandmendlife and Zoe at ecothriftyliving. While they blog on general environmental matters their approach to living waste free and lightly are inspirational. And I must also mention Rae Strauss, who runs Zero Waste Week (first week of September) and is always full of tips on how to reduce the waste in your home.

And if you fancy sharing your own plastic-free tips and images join in with #plasticfreetuesday every week on twitter and instagram

A spot of plastic-free shopping with the secondhand tales household

A spot of plastic-free shopping with the secondhand tales household

Plastic Free July: Failing to plan…

So, despite the fact that I have been trying to avoid some single use plastic for the past couple of years I still slip up by failing to plan. Sometimes I can be very good and take a  trip out with my disposable coffee cup/water bottle, spork, napkin and reusable bags.

But there are also times when I don’t think ahead. For example this week I went to see the wonderful Billy Bragg in concert (a great, therapeutic post-Brexit experience).

But I hadn’t even clocked that, at the bar, drinks would be served in disposable plastic glasses. This is something that is so obvious and, as someone who works the bar in an Arts Centre, I should have known this. Of course, because I couldn’t go without a pint of the local brew, ‘Funky Monkey’, I had to order the drinks in the plastic pint glasses.

What makes me even more cross with myself is that we have two reusable plastic pint glasses picked up from last year’s festivals:

reusuable plastic pint glasses

So, next time I go to a gig I must remember to take one of these. Sometimes I feel I need a crystal ball to predict what sort of disposable plastic products I will be faced with on a day to day business. And if I packed for every eventuality I would have a very heavy bag….

Still it’s all a learning experience and, as I promised myself, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

On an unexpected positive note this week I ordered a t-shirt which, although it did arrive in a plastic bag, had only this fabric label attached:

Redbubble label

The label explains the care instructions and points customers towards its returns website. I was also very impressed that it was attached to the t-shirt with the wooden clothes peg, rather than those awful plastic tags that end up lost on the floor when you cut them off!

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Plastic Free July Days 1-6

plastic free July

This month is Plastic Free July, an idea originating from Australia that encourages us to give up single use plastic for a month.

I haven’t completely made up my mind as to whether I will actively take part in Plastic Free July this year. I participated a couple of years ago (post here) and really struggled with finding alternatives that matched a)my time and b)budget.

However I like to think I have learned a lot since that experience, and incorporated some of the plastic-free habits into my everyday life.

So, with this in mind, I’ve set up a very loose guide as to how I am going to participate in Plastic Free July this time:

  1. Continue with my ‘good habits’, that is to take reusable shopping bags, refuse plastic straws and disposable cutlery and, instead, bring my own.
  2. Refuse the top four single use plastic sources: carrier bags, straws, takeaway coffees and plastic bottles. I do most of that already (see above) but could be better with the latter two.
  3. Not beat myself up if I make a ‘fail’.

So, since the beginning of July, I have gone out and about with my new(ish) reusable bamboo coffee cup:

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I have carried water in my brilliant Lakeside container that keeps drinks hot or cold:

 

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We managed a plastic-free picnic for school sports day last Friday:

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I also undertook a mammoth baking session at the weekend to ensure we had lots of unwrapped, homecooked snacks

 

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I have, however, been not so good when it comes to plastic wrapping. I went to the cinema and bought a packet of Maltesers (although I also took my water bottle instead of buying a plastic bottle there); went shopping with my youngest and bought a few things wrapped in plastic; bought trainers online that came in a plastic bag.

As much as I think I have fairly good habits when it comes to refusing plastic and waste, it is only a drop in the ocean. But when I look at how far I have come since before participating in Plastic Free July in 2014 it is quite a distance….

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Plastic Free July article in Green Parent magazine

Green Parent magazine June/July 2016

A couple of years ago I took part in Plastic Free July; a worldwide initiative to encourage participants to cut down on – or eliminate – single use plastic.

I found it to be a really enlightening, yet frustrating,challenge. I learnt a lot about alternatives to plastic wrapping, straws, disposable cups etc but also discovered that plastic is everywhere. By linking up with like minded bloggers I picked up tips on how to go plastic free but also found out just how prevalent the material is (did you know there is plastic in tea bags and chewing gum?).

Suffice to say that I haven’t repeated the challenge but have tried to incorporate some of the things I learned into everyday life.

 

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I wrote an article on my experience of Plastic Free July for the Green Parent magazine and it is featured in their current June/July edition. I have written for them before (as I dabble in some freelance writing) and love their ethos and attitude. I also blogged about the magazine here as one of my go-to inspirational reads on slow living.

The Green Parent magazine is on sale in major newsagents and supermarkets or you can find it here. Even if you don’t have children – or your kids have grown up – I still think it’s a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to live a greener life.

(Plastic Free July 2016 begins next week on Friday  1st July. My blog post here summarises my thoughts at the end of the 2014 challenge)

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It’s (Rubbish) Festival Time!

Last weekend I volunteered at a local festival and found myself sorting through other people’s rubbish….

The  Cock & Bull Festival is run by the charity Jamie’s Farm and held on a small farm in Wiltshire. If you haven’t heard of Jamie’s Farm before it’s a great organisation. It works with vulnerable children, and those with challenging behaviour, from urban schools. The children come to stay on the farm and learn important skills that help them when they return to the classroom.

The Cock & Bull Festival has been running for five years. It’s a very small-scale event with 500 festival goers and many volunteers. In return for a free ticket I did three shifts: setting up, food prep, and (early on a wet Sunday morning) the rubbish shift.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The latter was probably one of the least glamorous things I have ever done. In the  rain we had to collect rubbish and recycling bags and sort through them so they went into the correct containers to be taken away. Landfill rubbish costs the festival a lot of money every year so, as well as the environmental aspect, it makes financial sense to reduce their garbage footprint as much as possible. This could have been such a depressing shift yet, working alongside the very committed and knowledgable Jenny who had volunteered to run the recycling for the entire weekend, I learnt some valuable lessons:

signs, signs and more signs! There were lots of notices around the festival site (and on the website here) labelling what rubbish could go where. This really helped when sorting through the trash. But I think you need even more concise labelling- and more containers – to make sure nothing gets contaminated and to avoid confusion ie plastic disposable coffee cup lids, plastic straws, coloured paper napkins, wooden cutlery etc.

 

re-usable plastic cups are good. I already had my husband’s re-usable pint glass from Glastonbury but also bought this one (below). When buying your first drink from the bar you had to pay extra to get the re-usable glass, which (in theory) you used all weekend.

re-usable pint glass from Cock & Bull Festival 2015

festival fancy dress can be a REAL pain to recycle. On the Saturday night of the Cock & Bull Festival there is a procession. This year’s them was ‘Insecticider’ so there were lots of homemade (and shop bought) costumes that, by Sunday morning, had been consigned to the rubbish bins. It was good to see so many costumes made from the Wiltshire Scrapstore supplies that were contained within the festival’s craft tent. However, not so great to untangle and try to sort for recycling. (My own costume was an old green jumpsuit with cardboard legs attached and homemade green antennae, ie a grasshopper!)

 

it really is true that one person’s trash is another’s treasure! While I try to avoid taking home things for the sake of it (I passed on a Jamie’s Farm t-shirt as I wasn’t sure I would wear it again) the bunting and mason jar (below) will come in very handy for decorating my daughter’s birthday party next week:

festival pickings: one person's trash...

We also found three pairs of brand new marigold gloves that had been part of a bee costume. These were turned to good use as we wore them to sort through more rubbish. And I must also confess to finding a few bottles of unopened booze which made their way home…

– as I suspected, Cafe Bars generate the most waste. I work in a cafe and I know that, when we offer the disposable option, this is the least environmentally friendly option. At the festival only half of the disposable cardboard cups could be recycled and, of course, the pesky plastic lids couldn’t be recycled at all. I took my trusty Lakeland thermos with me for all my lattes but, of course, this doesn’t fit underneath the coffee machine so they had to use a disposable cup to make the coffee in the first place! This is something I am more than aware of (at my work I use china cups for the coffee shots) – I need to figure this one out when ordering takeaways in the flask.

Overall I was really impressed with the effort the Cock & Bull Festival had made to reduce rubbish. Festival goers, too, seemed very willing to take part in recycling and reducing as well. Interestingly I think this was more prevalent on the main site where there were lots of signs and everyone was doing the same thing. On the campsites there was definitely more landfill and unnecessarily dumped food and drink.

On a personal point I really enjoyed volunteering and have come home a little evangelised having sorted through so much rubbish. Maybe everyone who attends a festival should experience this shift. It’s made me realise more than ever that there really is no such thing as ‘away’ when you throw things away.

 

 

 

Homemade drinks for a heatwave

At the moment in the UK we are experiencing a heatwave. That is, temperatures spiked yesterday at 30 degrees C where we live (nearly 37 degrees in London). As we’re just not used to the heat we are trying to be very sensible and stay indoors, wear hats and sunscreen at school and drink lots of water and other cooling beverages.

With this in mind I have been experimenting with some homemade (and plastic free as it is Plastic Free July) drinks. Following a recent trip to our local Pick Your Own farm (more about that soon) we have ended up with lots of strawberries. So yesterday I whizzed them up in our blender with icing sugar, coconut butter and lots of milk. I could have served this as a smoothie but decided to strain the pulp and – lo and behold – we had ‘pink milk’, which was delicious! Next time I would make double the quantity as it went down very fast.

 

Remembering that we also had some lemons I dug out my favourite Cranks recipe book and followed their instructions for homemade lemonade. I love the Cranks recipe books. Once upon a time Cranks was a pioneering vegetarian restaurant located in Devon and London. Their recipe books date from the early eighties and, although full of what I would call ‘worthy’ ingredients, their dishes are ones I have cooked again and again.

In the ‘Entertaining with Cranks’ book there is a section on drinks which includes recipes such as ‘Tomato Juice Cocktail’ and non-alcoholic ‘Cider Punch’. However I decided to follow the instructions for the homemade lemonade. The recipe is very simple:

4 x lemons

60z/175g raw brown sugar

1 1/2 pints/900 ml boiling water

Halve and squeeze lemons, add them to sugar in a big pan and pour 1/2 pint hot water over. Boil under sugar dissolves then add remaining boiling water. Add the lemon halves. Stir, then cover and leave to cool. When cooled strain through a sieve.

I don’t have raw brown sugar so used soft brown sugar instead, which gave it a brown look (rather like cold tea). Next time I would use caster sugar and maybe a little less as it was quite sweet. Of course the lemonade wasn’t carbonated, but once chilled in the fridge, it was so refreshing!

Plastic Free July – a year on

Last July I took part in the worldwide campaign, Plastic Free July. The aim of this initiative is to encourage participants to spend a month (or even a week) cutting out plastics, or at least single use plastics, from their lives.

Single use plastics (straws, takeaway coffee cup lids, bags) are the worst sort of plastic. They are cheap to make (while oil is still plentiful) but are the worst at being disposed of. According to plastic is rubbish in the UK we throw away  3 million tonnes of plastic rubbish every year. Most plastic doesn’t rot. It either stays in the holes in the ground where we bury our waste, or ends up downstream in our oceans where it has a drastic impact on wildlife.

When I participated in Plastic Free July last year I found it was a steep learning curve. It made me realise how plastic is present everywhere. Although I’ve decided not to participate this year I am hoping to keep up with those habits I adopted last year, namely:

1. I now (try to) go out armed with a filled water bottle, spoon/spork and napkin. No more disposable plastic cutlery or wooden stirrers for me.

plastic free: Second Hand Tales blog

2. I take reusable bags and have started using these Onya net produce bags for picking up loose fruit and veg.

Plastic Free shopping: net produce bags

3. We’ve switched from plastic hand wash dispensers and plastic shower gel to good old fashioned bars of soap (cheaper and way less packaging).  I’ve actually become a bit of a soap nerd and it has started to become my ‘holiday souvenir’ (when we were in Scotland last summer I bought home bars from the Isles of Mull and Skye). When I have the money and the inclination I buy the soap from Lush as it’s completely plastic free. Otherwise I buy multi packs from Boots or the supermarket (which often come wrapped in plastic)

Soaps and the minimal paper waste

4. Over the past couple of months I have been disciplining myself to refill washing up liquid when I am in Bath or Corsham. Both towns have health food stores with refill stations.

refillable washing up liquid bottles

5. One of the legacies of my adventures in Plastic Free July and Supermarket Free Lent has caused me to shop more regularly at local butchers. Their meat is local, tasty and well priced. It also comes in far less plastic packaging, free from those awful plastic trays you get in supermarkets.

There are still way too many things that I need to do.  I need to remember to take more bags than I think I need shopping, rather than struggling with overloaded bags and juggling things in my hands!

I also need to ASK which is something I find very hard to do. I admire those bloggers who ask – or rather demand- that produce be put in their glass containers, to pour take out coffees into their own flasks

So, although I am not taking part in Plastic Free July this year my aims are:

1. Continue with what I’m doing (as above)

2. Use my Onya produce bags, get takeaway coffee in my flask and say no to plastic straws for my daughters.

3. Try to travel Plastic Free this summer. This is a BIG CHALLENGE. Next month we are travelling by train through France, Italy, Germany and Holland. We will be camping, staying in hotels, youth hostels and with friends. There will be many opportunities to eat and live plastic free but there will also be lots of challenges in trying to avoid single use plastic. I need to learn the appropriate phrases for ‘no straws please’, ‘no bags please’ and see how we get on…

In the meantime I will be following those bloggers here who are taking part in Plastic Free July (#pfjuk)