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And so you’re back, from outer space, I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face…

Gloria Gaynor’s lyrics seem apt because I am back after a long time of not writing but I still have that sad look upon my face. Things have gone a bit crazy over the last year, pretty sure you all know to what I am referring. And amongst all the stress, anxiety, worry and isolation I have had to try and ignore the increase in plastic consumption caused by the pandemic. I just don’t know how to process the guilt versus the need, human health now over the health of the planet down the line.

So I am going to make my first post back positive and to the point. What can we do? First all let us talk about face masks, now I know they divide opinion but I for one am a big fan. I can nip to the shops without make up, avoid people I don’t want to speak to, keep my nose warm in winter and they can even be used as a form of self expression. Not to mention the whole it helps you both not catch and not spread Covid thing.

During lockdown #1 my parents were one of the many wonderful people across the country who created a little cottage industry making masks. My Dad cut out the material and my Mam sewed. In the end they made and gave away, for free, hundreds of masks. And the more they made the better the design, I of course jumped straight in and had some made from Wonder Woman cotton fat quarters and I love them. But initially my Mam used up her scrap material and elastic, some of that material dated back to the 80s/90s as I remember it from curtains or outfits. See photos below of the style and material progression.

Now these are not ideal when wearing glasses, even with pipe cleaners through the top to pinch I usually end up steamed up. My husband and I tried things like wax that you rub on the inside of your glasses or sprays but eventually you end up foggy so we kind of gave up and I can go without my glasses when in a shop so it isn’t too bad and because he has a huge face he wears two masks and has them overlapping (I shit you not). What I love about the reusable masks is that they can just be washed and hung up ready to go (they have completely taken over my key holder near the front door).

However it is not always possible to wear this kind of mask, before being made redundant last Summer from my fundraising role, I was the meet and greet for visitors that were temporarily allowed back on site and I had to do a lot of talking when people arrived. And I therefore wore a plastic visor, I hated it. Some times it fogged up, it was uncomfortable and I kept taking it off and it got scratched by the car park dust making it a bit cloudy to see out of but because it was plastic, I refused to get a new one and used the same one for the many weekend sessions I did but then I had to put it in the bin when I left which still makes me cringe.

Don’t worry I got a new job working from home full time, hence even less time to write. But I am also now a volunteer on weekends at local vaccination centres. I have no choice but to wear a one use medical grade mask for my own and others safety, I also find I can wear my glasses with those and they are more comfortable for long use. I however make sure that before they go in the bin I pull out the elastic parts that go around your ears as I have seen images of animals and birds with the masks stuck round their necks etc. I hate that masks have become the new balloons in that respect. Yes we have to wear them but we can at least try to limit the negative impact, put them in a bin and cut the straps or if you can or just wear a reusable one.

I couldn’t resist a purchase of a couple of fun masks but they were not sourced in an eco way and are certainly not cotton but they do make me smile. And I have now banned myself from buying any more as they will just become another aspect of unnecessary fashion consumption.

So what else can we do, don’t wear gloves. Unless you are a medical professional there really isn’t the need. Especially because most people still touch their faces with the gloves on, just use hand sanitiser or wash your hands and if you do wear them, for the love of God don’t be the dick who leaves then in your shopping trolley at the supermarket, put them in the bin.

Hand sanitiser is the next one. It is now everywhere and in plentiful supply but I recommend buying a huge bottle of the stuff and using it to re-fill the many mini bottles you now have lying around the house, car and hand bags. Buying a new bottle every time is like buying a bottle of water, no need just think of it as another refill task. And top tip, depending on the content it can get very hot and explode so best not to keep a bottle in the car during the summer!

I really hope those tips help but I would like to think most of it is common sense and second nature by now. Stay safe and all that jazz.

Eco Swaps

Eco Gifts

I have recently started a new job (partly why I have had no time to write) but it was also my birthday in May so I have been the lucky recipient of some presents of late.  And I have to say I have received quite a few eco gifts, which I am loving.

I was a bit concerned I had become one of those irritating people who would be considered ‘fussy’ because I now have strong opinions on gifts, wrapping and pretty much every product.  I am ‘fussy’ but my friends and family have totally stepped up and been rather successful.

What I would say is if you have a friend who is eco minded and you are concerned about gifting them certain things, then just ask.  I know it spoils the surprise a bit but trust me they will appreciate you taking the time to consider whether or not it is something they actually want.  Nothing more irritating to an eco warrior than waste!

You may decide to do your own research and gift something pure eco, but be warned a true eco warrior has possibly already got it or checked it out themselves and dismissed it.  So you are running a bit of a risk.  I make it a bit easier by reviewing products on here and instagram so my preferences are some times obvious, I also talk, a lot.  If you have a friend or colleague who is the same, then just listen and a gift solution should become obvious.

If you are still in doubt play it safe and gift money, or your time.  I have one group of friends where we rarely buy each other a gift, we normally just agree to spend some time together or treat each other to a cinema date and I actually appreciate that time more than any gift.

FYI to my friends and family (and husband) if don’t already know these:

  • I don’t like fancy chocolate, a basic bar of Galaxy or Cadbury and I am happy or a box of milk chocolates, no dark or white chocolate please
  • I prefer quantity over quality (perfect example above)
  • I hate waste, don’t get me a token gift, I would prefer nothing or your time
  • I don’t like to decorate my house with flowers, I find it odd to bring something into the house that is just going to die a slow painful death when it could be outside where it belongs for everyone to see.  I don’t just mean cut flowers, I also have a knack for killing house plants, even the hardy ones
  •  My drink of choice is vodka
  • Second hand or an eco wool would be great for my crochet
  • I LOVE  to read, I have a Kindle so a voucher for that is great but I still can’t resist the feel of a paper book in my hand so these are also welcome.  However get me a second hand book, better for the environment and I think it adds to the story and I also love recommendations, if you enjoyed it, I probably will too.  No sticky pages please!

If you are eco conscious tell people what you want!  There are nice ways to do this so don’t be a dick about it.

So on to the good stuff, I am going to show you some of the things I got and what I thought of them.

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The above photo is the leaving presents I got from my old team.  They did crazy well, refer back to my likes list and you can see they nailed it.  Even better was the fact that everything was wrapped in brown paper and lace.  Apparently the shopping credit goes to my friends Kate and Ellie who are my long suffering colleagues who sat right next to me and therefore had to listen to my none stop talking.

As you can see there is a bottle of Bison Grass Vodka (this is amazing with lots of ice and cloudy apple juice), a bottle of prosecco, some simple but yummy milk chocolates, Method cleaning spray, a bamboo lunch box and a Moon Light.

The lunch box is from Morrisons, it can go in the dishwasher and is made from Bamboo and they do a matching travel mug.  The fun design reflects my excitement when I eat lunch, I am all about the food.20190410_153100.jpg

The Moon Light makes me laugh because Ellie had asked me about it in the guise of a friend had mentioned it to her and what did I think, she did her research and I am grateful.

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It was something I hadn’t seen before and I feel is a very cool and unique gift.  It has a 3D sphere of the actual surface of the moon that you use as a lamp.  It is charged by USB, it charges really quick and lasts a good few uses.  You can adjust how bright it is and have it an orange or white hue.  I like the brightest white setting.

It is on a wooden stand and the sphere itself is made of PLA which information on the internet states is an environmentally friendly biodegradable material.  The only non eco aspect for me was although it came in a cardboard box, there was a small amount of bubble wrap in there, which could easily be replaced by some scrunched brown paper.

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I really like it and would never have bought it for myself so it was the perfect gift, it adds a lovely atmosphere to my living room and my daughter also finds it really interesting to look at and as it doesn’t get hot it is fine for her to pick up.

Next up are some presents from my friend Alex who doesn’t live near me so they arrived via post which always feels a bit exciting.

Metal straws, I do already have some that I was gifted at Christmas but they were a pack of four and as I have already discovered you can never have too many, one because my daughter loves using them, two if I get them out in a bar other people want one too and because I have already left one behind and I suspect this is going to happen a lot if I am in the full swing of a night out.

They come with a handy wrap/pouch, 2 cleaning brushes and some are straight, some are curved at the top and I love the funky colours.

She also got me two books (totally spoilt), I started ‘Simple Acts To Save Our Planet’ first and I haven’t finished it.  Unfortunately I would not recommend it at all, it is full of contradictory, some times repetitive messages that seem to have been copied and pasted and put into one book.  I actually strongly disagree with some of the statements and the good ones do not go into enough detail to be of use.

These issues are not restricted to the book however, people see a head line or a statement and run with it, that is why I started my blog to give realistic practical help, it is no good saying reduce plastic when no one tells you how.  Or my big bug bear is people advocating cotton or bamboo but not explaining that you need to buy organic and sustainable cotton or bamboo otherwise you could be innocently making the environment worse due to how they are produced, yes the end product is plastic free but as I have stated before we need to consider a products full journey and impact not just the end result.

The second book ‘Flex’ is an absolute delight!  I read the front cover and I will be honest I did an eye roll.  I am not a self help book kind of person and I also believe a woman’s empowerment comes from the woman herself not a book telling her how to do it.  But I incorrectly judged this book by its cover.  Annie Auerbach gives experienced practical advice with facts, examples and Dolly Parton quotes!  It just makes sense and doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel or demonise men or employers.  It is simple and easy to digest, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it.

I do think this book came to me at a good time though as I am feeling an almost self re-invention at the moment with a career change and discovering the new version of me after becoming a mother and starting to get some of my own time back now my daughter is at school.  We are navigating these changes within our day to day family home life too and although I have a truly wonderful husband, some times I do take on more of the emotional burden at home.  The physical house work is no where near as exhausting as the thinking you need to do as a mother, wife and worker. There are solutions and I know as a family we can work together.

I am referring to my current time of life as my third wind and I plan to make the most of it.

Speaking of my time of life, it is a gross fact that the older I get the hairier I get.  So the next gift is highly appropriate.

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These were from my husband and I was extremely happy with them but then I should be because he was sent multiple links of gift ideas in advance of my birthday!

Obviously the eco gift is the metal razor and shaving soap bar but seriously though, I am so excited for the 9 to 5 musical!

I have written about razors previously and have been using the Bulldog bamboo razor but it is not ideal as it still has some plastic involved.  The metal razor ticks all my boxes, practical, plastic free, cost saving after initial purchase, the blades last a long time and you get a very close shave.  Some one on my instagram stated she puts her used razor blades into a little box and pops them in her normal recycling to make it easier/less dangerous  for them to be processed.

Warning this thing is sharp!  But you just need to be a bit more careful than you would be with a plastic disposable and you shouldn’t shred your legs.  My husband ordered this one from Peace with the Wild.  It comes with five spare blades and a bar of shaving soap, now I normally don’t using shaving foam or anything as most of my previous razors had a conditioning strip, but I would say with a pure metal razor you do need something to make the process as bit smoother.  This one from Mutiny Shaving Co. smells great, looks cool, has natural ingredients, is plastic free and makes my legs feel silky smooth.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to buy me a gift or wish me good luck or a happy birthday.  I have truly wonderful people in my life and they are the best gifts anyone could have.

Eco Swaps

Let’s talk crap

Wow it has been a while, two months since my last blog, how lazy am I?  To be fair I have been working on another project that has taken up my writing time but that is another story (literally).

So let’s talk crap, or more specifically the toilet roll we use to get rid of our crap.  Not the sexiest of topics (unless you are into that kind of thing) but it really does apply to everyone and it is a very basic day to day, wipe to wipe, eco swap opportunity.

The first thing I want to say on this topic is don’t flush wipes!  Any kind of wipes, seriously don’t do it, it blocks up your toilet system, it blocks up the sewerage system and they are really bad for the environment and can end up in the sea.  No sea dweller or human wants to swim around in a sea of wipes covered in poo, really, just think of a fresh one slapping you in the face as you bob in the sea snogging that sexy Spanish waiter on your holidays, that is a mood killer right there.  And I really hope I don’t have to tell you to not flush condoms and sanitary products, even worse.  Here is a picture of a fatberg just to drive home my point!

fatberg

If you need something moist then think about installing a bidet, wet some kind of organic cotton and use that to clean up, then pop it in the washer or buy eco friendly chemical free and degradable wipes that can go in the bin.

I have tried out a variety of different toilet roll options over the last few months so I will review each one.  First up the aptly named Who Gives a Crap.

I have seen this one mentioned a lot on other eco blogs and instagram accounts so it had to be tried.  I ordered three rolls as part of my larger Peace With The Wild order.

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The price varies slightly depending on where you get it from and how much your order but as per usual the sting is in the delivery costs, this is why I prefer eco products to be available in the main stream shops, less cost for me and more convenient.  Peace With The Wild do an offer where you get three rolls for £3, so £1 per roll but you then get £5 off your first full order direct with Who Gives a Crap.

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Now I don’t know about you that seems really expensive to me.  However the whole point of this company is not to just wipe your bum but to help bums all over the world, see their blurb below:

We’re determined to prove that toilet paper is about more than just wiping bums. We make all of our products with environmentally friendly materials, and we donate 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. To date we’ve donated over $1.8m Aussie dollars (that’s the equivalent of over £1,000,000!) to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. Not bad for a toilet paper company, eh?

Yes that is impressive, and of course my favourite part is the fact that each roll is wrapped in funky paper that can be recycled, no plastic!

who gives a crap recycled toilet roll

So does it do the job?  Erm, I hate to say it but we really didn’t like it!  I made the change without informing my husband and five year old daughter and both of them commented on how ‘crap’ the new toilet roll was and I have to agree.  There is nothing quality about the paper itself which you kind expect of recycled paper toilet roll but the fact that I had to use twice as much as normal because it is so thin, made the cost of it even more a concern for me.  Looking at their website they also offer a premium version made from bamboo (personally I would have called this the bumboo option) but I think the basic one is already too expensive.  I feel bad, I wanted to like this one, what the company is doing is excellent and I truly applaud their efforts but it is not for me.  As you know my swaps have to be reasonably practical, convenient and ideally not a really expensive swap so this does not tick my boxes.

Next up something available in a main stream shop, a Tesco offering.

Tesco Luxury Soft Eco Toilet Tissue 9 RollsThe cost is £3.35 for 9 rolls so the cheapest of the options I have tried and no delivery cost if you are buying as part of your normal shop.  It is made from recycled paper and the country of origin is Portugal, they don’t really provide much more information than that but there is some information on the rear that directs consumers to recycle the outer plastic packaging along with their plastic carrier bags at your larger Tesco store.  Great idea but for me personally recycling plastic is not a solution, no plastic packaging in the first place should be the ultimate goal.  I noticed no difference with this to any other Tesco branded toilet roll so it definitely does the jobs and it is convenient.

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The final ones is ecoleaf toilet roll.  I have used a lot of other ecoleaf products and I spotted this one in a local Organic Health Food shop near me called The Honey Tree in Heaton.  So  I again avoided any delivery charge.  If you live local (Newcastle) then please check out their shop, it is packed full of great food and lots of eco products, they also have a small refill section for some dried foods and things like liquid detergent.

Toilet Rolls

I have no idea how much I paid, I am normally quite good at keeping track of stuff like that but I didn’t get an itemized receipt and it was a few weeks ago.  Looking on the internet the cheapest I can find this size for is £4.75 for 9 rolls but then there would be delivery on top, so you will need to do some research to find the best overall price on the web.  Again you can see it is cheaper than the Who Gives a Crap option but more than the Tesco.  However I can practically hear you scream again it is covered in plastic!  Check out the blurb below, this kind of thing makes me smile:

In 1986 Ecoleaf from Suma launched the UK’s first 100% Recycled Paper Toilet Tissue, since then they’ve continued to develop the range. Products now come in 100% compostable wrap, making the packaging sustainable, renewable, non-polluting and non-toxic. All Ecoleaf paper products are made from 100% recycled fibre sourced exclusively within the UK. Manufactured from 60% plus post-consumer waste supply streams, collected by local authorities, kerb side collections and bona fide waste merchants. The remaining waste fibre is made up from UK manufacturers’ waste such as printers’ trim and greeting card manufacturers’ waste. No chlorine-based chemistry is used in the production process. Sourced and then manufactured in the UK, every effort is made to maximise loads and minimise road miles.

For me angels were singing accompanied by bum trumpets whilst reading that, this is the kind of approach I love!  They are thinking about all the angles and I feel confident it is a true eco swap with no compromises.  Yes, more expensive than my major bulk buy mainstream toilet roll with a voucher from JTF (my previous go to option), but it isn’t a huge cost difference and it ticks pretty much every one of my demanding boxes.  Squeaky bum moment, did I like using it?  Put it this way I forgot we were trying out a new toilet roll and there were zero comments from the ecolass family members.  Well done ecoleaf, I salute you.

So my plan is to bulk buy the ecoleaf one, with the Tesco option as an emergency back up as I do have a Tesco local to me and I tend to be in there quite regular.

Our bums deserve to be eco friendly too, even if it just counteracts the gasses they produce. Please comment if you have used any other brand and what you thought.

Eco Swaps

Eco gob

Do you have teeth? Do you want to keep them? If you answered yes to both, then keep reading.

Here I plan to give you some actual practical information on something we all need to do twice a day, brush our teeth. This is quite a big one because when I look around my house for throw away plastic most of it is in the kitchen, followed closely by the bathroom. It is also a crack den of chemical nasties. What I have found so far is that replacing your dental hygene items is one of the easier eco swaps, or at least it was for me.

clean mouth teeth dentist
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I would like to start with the humble toothbrush. I am sure a lot of you have heard about bamboo toothbrushes, it was near the top of my list of products to try as they are becoming more readily available and very much ‘on trend’ from an eco point of view and I am never one to miss a good old ‘bandwagon’.

For the last year I have been using an Oral B electric toothbrush I got in the sales and loved it.  Apart from the first time I used it when I felt like my mouth had been violated, I quickly got used to the super clean feeling after use. But (you knew that but was coming) I was forever forgetting to charge it, mainly because I don’t like to leave it plugged in all the time as it looks untidy and I felt it would be using unnecesaary electricity. So I always had a throw away plastic one on stand by, tut tut.

As part of this particular journey I replaced my plastic throw away one with a CHARCo Bamboo toothbrush that a friend at work gave to me. It has charcoal infused bristles (charcoal, another bandwagon) and a bamboo handle, it came packaged in a cardboard box. Now don’t panic, I didn’t just throw away my old stuff, I have been stockpiling used dental products in preperation for sending off to TerraCycle to be recycled . Check out what can be sent under this project, including your used toothpaste tubes too, this one is paid for by Colgate but they accept all brands.

I really like the CHARCo brush as it has a large head and soft (not too soft) bristles, I feel it reaches everywhere needed and it hasn’t started to flatten yet and I have been using it a good few months.

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I would like to point out that all of the bamboo toothbrushes I have seen still have plastic bristles, therefore you need to snap off the heads before putting them in your compost or recycling. I e-mailed TerraCycle and they confirmed they would accept the heads as part of their scheme. I also haven’t put one in my home compost yet but I suspect it will take quite a while to break down.

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I was so impressed with my bamboo toothbrush that I ordered some for my daughter from ebay called Dental Aesthetics, £2.99 for two. She loves the colours and she has become oddly proud of it, telling people she has a bamboo toothbrush and that the bristles have two colours.

I have bought myself a replacement as part of a recent Peace With The Wild order. It is recommended that you change your toothbrush around every three months. This one is from Georganics and cost £4 (there are cheaper ones available), I will edit this post once my new one has been tried and tested.

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If you think about every person on the planet throwing away a plastic toothbrush every three months for life, you will start to get an idea of the impact something so mundane is having on landfill and our planet. It is just so wastefull.

If you currently use an electric toothbrush and couldn’t bear to be parted with it then you do have options.  You can send the used heads to TerraCycle to be recycled or I have found some Oral B compatible heads being sold by LiveCoco see below blurb:

Oral-B Toothbrush Heads – 100% Recyclable Body With Charcoal Fibre Bristles From LiveCoco, Created For Teeth Whitening With Activated Charcoal Powder, Premium Quality Bristles

I am a little dubious about whether or not you could recycle these in your normal council recycling bin but you could check with your local council.  If you compare electric toothbrushes versus 100% plastic throw away ones, then an electric looks more eco friendly to me, so long as you only have them plugged in when they need to be charged and especially if you have an electricity supply which comes from green sources.  This is mainly down to the fact that the amount of plastic being thrown away is smaller.  However in comparison to a bamboo toothbrush they don’t hold any weight for me as once you need to bin the whole unit, there is the plastic and the battery to contend with.  And you do need to replace the heads just as often as a normal brush.

So you have your brush sorted but what about the toothpaste?  As part of my journey I want to get rid of as many unnecessary chemicals from my life too and of course toothpaste comes in a plastic tube with a plastic lid.  My solution has been Denttabs.  I took a while looking into this one as there are a lot of options available, including recipes to make your own.  But I wanted something that was cheap, plastic free and could really compete with the performance of a normal toothpaste.  I also opted for one which includes fluoride.

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I had no idea before looking into this that fluoride really does divide opinion, some people believe it is very good for us, especially our teeth and others that it can potentially cause other health issues.  At the end of the day it is a chemical that we add to things, which is what I am trying to get away from.  However I have a few friends who are dentists and I know they would recommend fluoride in toothpaste, so to start off with I wanted to stick to this aspect of normality.  However I have since found out that having fluoride in your toothpaste is not needed as much so long as you live in an area that has high fluoride content in the local drinking water, which I do.  So I may venture into non fluoride in the future, there is a non fluoride version of Denttabs.

There are quite a few places that sell Denttabs but most of them come in plastic tubs.  I bought mine from Plastic Phobia.  I have mentioned them before because they give you loads of information about their products and how they are shipped, see below:

Denttabs

Denttabs are our best selling product because they allow you to massively reduce your plastic waste without compromising your teeth. We can’t imagine how many tubes of toothpaste are used by each person in a lifetime. These effective teeth cleaning tablets offer a solution.

  • Denttabs gently polish teeth so it is better to use a soft, gentle bamboo toothbrush than an electric toothbrush.
  • Vegan and gluten-free
  • Contains the same amount of fluoride as toothpaste. Dentists believe fluoride is very important for dental care and currently irreplaceable

Why are Denttabs eco-friendly?

  • These toothpaste tablets reduce water usage as normal toothpaste is 50% water
  • Replaces plastic tubes of toothpaste
  • Few chemicals used as there is no need to preserve a paste
  • Reduces shipping emissions because it takes little energy to transport Denttabs

Origin

  • Produced in Germany. The original idea behind Denttabs was to provide the best dental care using the fewest chemicals.

Ingredients

Microfine cellulose (Microcrystalline Cellulose), Sodium fluoride, Amisoft (Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Stevia (Stevioside), Silica (silica), Natural (mint) aroma, Sodium bicarbonate, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Magnesium Stearate, Menthol, Xanthan gum, Eugenol.

Plastic Phobia posted out my Denttabs in a brown envelope that obviously could be recycled.  I started off with just one months worth to see if I liked them and I have ordered more.  I decided to store mine in a glass jar I already had to stop any moisture making them go soggy, and it looks nice.  I also read that to reduce the strength of the taste for children or yourself, exposing them to sunlight will help.

They are light weight so great for travelling but do take a bit of getting used to and I have now have the knack.  I crush the tablet in my teeth then with my tongue I put the powder/mush onto my brush then brushing is just like any other toothpaste.  I like the clean feeling, taste and smell.  My daughter uses them some times but I need to rub the tablet onto her wet brush, otherwise she finds the taste too strong.  They cost £13.40 for 360 from Plastic Phobia, bargain.

The one thing I really want you to do is turn off your tap when brushing!  The recommendation is to brush our teeth for two minutes, you do not need your tap running the whole time.

I am not done there, I also used plastic interdental brushes as recommended by my dentist, mainly due to bleeding gums and having to have a super deep clean done a couple of years ago.  I became a bit obsessed with them as putting them in between your teeth and seeing the gunk that comes out, is a bit like squeezing spots for me, very satisfying, oh yes I am one of those.

The solution for me has been plastic and chemical free dental floss.  As part of my Peace With The Wild order, I purchased the Georganics minty charcoal dental floss, it was £5 which felt a bit pricey however it looks a lot nicer than your normal plastic container and the website states it is:

  • Plastic free and comes in reusable glass container with metal dispenser lid
  • Vegan & PETA certified cruelty free
  • 30 meters in pack
  • 100% natural with no chemicals

 

It works just as well a normal dental floss with an extra hit of mint.

I have been consistently using the Denttabs and bamboo toothbrush for the last 3-4 months and the dental floss for a few weeks, so I booked myself in for my regular 6 month dental check up to get the official verdict.  I was scored a 10/10 for my brushing efforts and didn’t need any work. So these changes are now permanent for me.  They are all easy to source, cost effective, good for me and brilliant for the environment.

So get yourself an eco gob just like eco lass.

Crafts, Eco Swaps

Hot topic: wrapping paper

I have noticed this one is getting a lot of attention recently and rightly so, after all it is nearly Christmas.  Now I am sure you are all very organized like me and have bought and wrapped all your presents, right? (Cue nervous laughter).

Well listen up anyway because wrapping is for life not just Christmas.

I will give you all the ‘why’ first, most wrapping paper can not be recycled!  So just sit and think for a minute all the paper you have pointlessly put in your recycle bin over the years, take a deep breath and read on.  If the paper contains foil or glitter, it can’t be recycled, the best way to test is to scrunch it, if it stays scrunched then it can be recycled, if it unfolds it can’t, simples. The other main issue is that the paper that can be recycled won’t be recycled unless you remove ALL the sellotape.  Now personally I don’t have time to sit and pull tape off all the paper at Christmas, I have a five year old, there is a lot of paper.

aint nobody got time for that GIF

I started thinking about wrapping paper a few months ago when my daughter seemed to be going to a lot of kids birthday parties, so I figured I would try out a few different things on the odd birthday present first to get ready for the intensity that is wrapping all the Christmas presents.

So I started with the obvious one, brown paper.  This isn’t as easy as you think, for starters it is not as readily available as normal wrapping paper, it is boring by nature but most annoyingly it comes wrapped in plastic.  Yes, I am yet to find a roll of brown paper that does not come wrapped in plastic, I understand it needs protecting when being transported, stored etc. but seriously why not wrap it in, hmm maybe, paper?  Just a thought.  I did see separate sheets of brown paper but that really isn’t going to cover much.  So I turned to trusty old Hobby Craft and so far they have been the most cost effective in regards to how big the roll is versus price compared to other shops I have seen it in.  I haven’t researched or bought any off the internet yet as I have only just ran out of the three rolls I originally purchased.  But I have been keeping my eyes peeled in shops and spotted it in Tesco and JTF, but their rolls were tiny and still wrapped in plastic.

So I am asking you lot for some help, where should I turn to for replenishing my stock?  Baring in mind I would prefer it to be paper that has already been recycled, not wrapped or posted in plastic, without a crazy delivery cost, ideally local (Newcastle/North East) and definitely not made using any chemical nasties?  Please comment if such a thing exists but just not being wrapped in plastic would be a good start.

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Above is my first effort, and I say effort because it does take longer to make it look pretty when you can’t just rely on a pre-patterned paper.  At this point I knew I didn’t want to use sellotape, as it is the devil.  So I used a non toxic glue stick, which worked well but it was a simple item to wrap and nice and flat, I had also purchased some twine, plain brown labels, stamps and non toxic ink (all Hobby Craft).

 

I was quite happy with the results and the best bit was my daughter enjoyed using the stamps so it turned into a bit of a craft session too.

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A glue stick and twine didn’t feel overly practical though so I began looking for a sellotape alternative and I found paper tape was the next best option.  I ordered some from Plastic Phobia who I have mentioned before because their delivery cost is reasonable, they can trace the full journey of their products and they do carbon offsetting for their deliveries.  They sell the paper tape in packs of two and I am yet to finish a full roll and I have used it a lot.

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This paper tape isn’t as sticky as sellotape, however it is really easy to use because you can just tear it off (no teeth or scissors needed) and it is perfect for brown paper and you don’t need to remove it before it goes in the recycling.  However I didn’t think the torn off pieces looked that nice so I started cutting pieces using my pinking shears to give it a pretty edge, I know that is taking it a bit far but I like it to look neat, I also did it a bit when cutting the paper but that added quite a lot of time so stopped doing that.

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As you can see the photo above I also branched out paper wise for Christmas, I managed to find some paper from Ikea that specifically stated it could be recycled but it has some pretty prints on, but subtle, which I like.  I also had to buy some paper that my daughter would think Santa would use, she may only be five years old but she would totally be suspicious if all of a sudden Santa had gone all eco just like Mammy.  Although she does believe I have his e-mail address and let him know the cheapest places to buy her presents, so he can save his money and buy more presents for the other boys and girls.

I am also the kind of person who keeps odd bit of ribbons and string from previous presents, cakes and that kind of thing so I used my stash to make things a bit more interesting instead of just twine on them all.

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This is a great way to re-use something that a lot of people would bin.  See photo below, I put the cardboard label in the recycling and used the cotton ribbon to wrap a present.  No landfill needed.

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Now if you are feeling a bit more creative I also started trying Furoshiki, which is a traditional Japanese way of wrapping things in fabric. I had a load of step by step guides saved on Pinterest and it took a while to get my head around it but it is now my new favorite thing, I need to work on it a bit more ready for next year.

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It also works best with large square pieces of material so I will be on the look out for nice pashminas and snoods in charity shops.  I like the idea of a present being wrapped in another present.  And for people who you think would like to pass on the material when they wrap some one else’s present, then print off the instructions and include them in the gift.  I had the idea of using cotton Christmas tea towels to wrap presents and this worked quite well for some items but they aren’t really big enough to work well and I think it would be expensive for me to find sustainable cotton and organic Christmas tea towels which is what I should really use.  My favourite one I did was two large ale bottles wrapped in to two tea towels that made it into a carrier too, I didn’t get a photo of that one so tried to re-create with wine bottles see below.

So I now have a mixture of presents wrapped in many ways and I actually enjoyed the experimentation and have a plan that will probably bubble away all year and culminate in a total hybrid next Christmas.

And that’s a wrap (sorry couldn’t resist).

Eco Swaps

Cienna Rose nail varnish product review

I would like to start by saying I am not sponsored by any company and do not receive any money for referrals of affiliate links.  My reviews are all my own opinion but I am more than open to products being sent to me for review.

So probably not too high on people’s agenda but this is a product that seem to warrant not too much research and I fancied some new nail varnishes so I looked for a better option.  And I found Cienna Rose.

Nail varnish has been shown to include some chemicals that can be very harmful to your health.  And if you think about it you are easily absorbing them through your nails.  You may have guessed that I am already not a fan of fake nails, they are made from plastics, they are a throw away item and again include dodgy chemicals, take note of the fact that many manicurists wear face masks.  But I do like to paint my nails, as a form of self expression I suppose and it stops me peeling them, I am not a biter but I do love a good split nail.

As usual I started with a google of eco friendly nail varnishes.  There are a lot of articles available and actually quite a few brands that offer reduced chemical nasties and I came to understand the labeling of 3- free, 5-free and so on.  It denotes how many of the usual nasty chemicals the product does not contain.  Now 3- free seems reasonably standard and I found lots of reviews of varnishes that have a higher number but the I decided to try the one with the highest number 12-free from Cienna Rose and I like their story see below:

Our Story

Inspired by all things floral, Cienna Rose is a 12 Free Formula Nail Lacquer, enriched with Pro Vitamin B5, Vitamin E and infused with Lemongrass Oil to nourish and enhance your nail experience.

 

After moving to Africa, I had limited access to nail lacquers and became interested in ways to make long-lasting, colour rich formulas, creating home blended colours – this led to the creation of Cienna Rose. The Cienna Rose branding is inspired by my daughter, Cienna and her fascination with flowers – and has since grown and become an established brand, with all products manufactured in the UK.

 

Cienna Rose provides innovative, high quality and playful colour options with a nail care twist. The stylish and fun core shades are of exceptional quality and beautifully presented and packaged for a totally premium colour experience.

 

The superior Cienna Rose formula does not contain any harmful chemicals and all products are of a 12 Free Formula and free from Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde resin, Camphor, DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate), Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, Toluene, Triphenyl Phosphate, MEHQ/HQ (Hydroquinone Monomethyl Ether), MIT (Methylisothiazolinone), Animal derived ingredients and Parabens.  They are also vegan friendly and cruelty free.

 

So I placed an order, the website is easy to use and I had e-mail updates regarding dispatch.

 

The above is what I received, immediately disappointed with the DPD plastic bag but happy with the cardboard box, tissue paper and shredded paper inner packaging.

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The packaging feels very luxurious and I felt I had received a treat.  I ordered four nail varnishes and three came in the display box and the extra one in a separate cardboard box.  However the white insert in the large box is polystyrene.  The bottles themselves are glass but with plastic lids.  I decided to e-mail them for some more information on their packaging and I received the response below:

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Ok so not much to be done at the moment but at least it is something they are looking into and I like to e-mail companies with feedback because how else would they know what customers want and I am pleased I won’t get the display/gift box again.

Prices start from £9, more than I would normally pay for a nail varnish but that is because I would normally buy what ever is on offer.  And delivery is free if you spend over £30 otherwise it is £3.99 for standard delivery which really pushes the cost up.  I am planning on buying more, I really want the nail care treatments which includes a top coat that was out of stock at the time of my original order but I feel I will have to wait for some spare cash or get them as a present as I will want to order over £30 worth to avoid the delivery charge.

I ordered four colours, two that I thought were sparkly and two matt finishes but all the ones I received had a sparkle in them which I am normally not too keen on but in the end I actually liked all the ones I received.  The full on sparkle ones have real bling but are not lumpy or full of large clumps of glitter which was a pleasant surprise.  I noticed straight away that the smell was not as strong as my regular nail varnishes.  The applicator brush is easy to use but the varnish itself is quite thin and requires quite a few coats.  However it dries quick, the first time I used it I unintentionally started washing the dishes about 20 minutes after applying the varnish and it did not smudge.

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Some of the colours last better than the others and I would say I get 5-7 days out of it, but that is without using a base or top coat.  I asked a friend to try them and she applied it much thicker and is used to gel nail varnish so wasn’t happy with how long it lasted before chipping but she did comment that the condition of her nails felt better.

I also find the nail varnish easy to remove, even with the glitter.

The product has a way to go regarding packaging to tick all my boxes but I do like it and I would recommend it.

Eco Swaps, Home made, Recycle

Reduce, re-use, re-cycle: the order in which to approach an eco life.

Since starting my eco journey I have tried out a lot of new products, striving to make eco swaps where I can.  My attitude towards products has changed dramatically over the last few months.  Things I chose just because they ‘seemed’ to be a better option just didn’t live up to my expectations and I now feel the way in which I choose a new product is different.  I feel more educated, harder to please and my expectations are just so much higher.  Annoyingly this means my options have reduced and I am often left feeling there just isn’t a suitable alternative available.  Manufacturers have so much work to do to make it possible for us to ever become zero waste.  I hate settling, I want all my boxes ticked.

My ideal criteria is as follows:

  • plastic free
  • nasties free (i.e. naughty chemicals like parabens)
  • fair trade
  • sustainable
  • organic
  • not too expensive
  • locally produced or available
  • eco packaging (especially if being posted)
  • convenient
  • effective
  • animal cruelty free

Frustratingly few products are any where close to what I want.

I have also come to the realisation that recycling is not the answer at all and actually have started to feel bad about how much plastic is in my recycle bin (even if the bottle is already made from recycled plastic and can be recycled again).  Especially with reports that a lot of plastic we think is going to be recycled is actually being burnt, or worse shipped to other countries who we pay to burn it.  Also plastic can not be recycled forever ,unlike metal for example.  The more we recycle plastic the more it degrades and downcycles each time, meaning it has a very limited recycling life span (some times only once).  Plastic never disappears, plastic does not rot or biodegrade instead it breaks down into microplastics that end up in the sea or in our food.  The only solution is to stop making the stuff, which means I need to stop buying it and reduce the demand.

That is why we all need to think reduce, re-use, re-cycle.  In that order, re-cycle is the last resort.

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Something else I have been looking at is bulk buying.  Everything I read states this is the more eco option.  It would seem the main thinking about this is to reduce our carbon footprint with fewer journeys to the supermarket for example.

For me that rule doesn’t work, I know I will go to the shops every week regardless of how much I have bulk bought as I will always need fresh food, something I have forgotten or something I did not anticipate needing.  I have been trying to get some concrete information on the eco cost of bulk buy packaging versus the packaging for individual items.  In some instances it is obvious, for example buying separate cartons of juice versus one large carton (with no straws), pouring a glass at a time from the large container is better.

But what I want to know is am I helping by buying a huge bag of pasta wrapped in plastic versus a few smaller bags.  How much plastic am I saving, if any?  I suppose I would have to weigh the packets to get an answer on that.  Some of the suppliers from whom I have been buying my new products, very helpfully provide full information on how they receive their supplies.  For example my Denttabs provided by Plastic Phobia have been shipped to them in large paper/biopolymer bags and they then divide the tabs into separate brown paper packets which are posted to the consumer.  Great but does the carbon footprint of posting those packets outweigh some of the good?  Am I better off being the one who buys the huge bag from the supplier and then dishing them out to my friends by hand?  It would be completely impractical for me to bulk buy everything without starting my own business and therefore having premises to store it all, I just want it to be easy.  I just want to buy something without researching it and know it was the very best I could do but I also want our best to be better.

Why do suppliers make a an eco product then ship it in plastic or wrap it in brown paper and then seal it with plastic sellotape?  In my opinion they should be thinking about every angle and make every part of the process as eco friendly as possible.  I work in finance and we are strictly regulated on knowing who our suppliers and contractors are and what rules they are governed by even down to what third parties do they use.  It is called due diligence, we don’t want to be involved in corruption or fraud regardless of how far down the supply chain it is.  We have not just developed the idea of corporate responsibility in finance, we want to know things like where does our meat come from and even how the animal was treated.  This kind of thinking should be applied to all services and every product.  I struggle to make an informed consumer decision when I do not have all the facts, most companies have no idea of the true production journey of what they sell.

I also want to know some silly things like if I use a paper tissue to blow my nose am I better putting it in the bin or down the toilet?  Is it possible for us to start using glass bottles for tablets again instead of plastic blister packets?  Is there anyone within the NHS even looking at ways to reduce their one use plastic waste without it being a hygiene nightmare? I just want to know how to live day by day and help without doing a degree to understand it all.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

I have come to realise that to be truly chemical, plastic free and to know my supply chain I need to make more things myself.  So I am currently looking into the use of organic essential oils and other household staples such as baking soda and castor oil to make health, beauty and cleaning products.  This is just proving to be another huge topic to get my head round.

We have become so reliant in such a short amount of time on convenience products like plastic and they have improved our lives dramatically but the cost is only now becoming apparent. And I feel like fixing the problem is going to take a lot longer than it took to create, such is life.

I will be following this rant post up with some product reviews, so please forgive my initial naivety with some of them.  But all efforts at improvement are welcomed and not everyone will want to go to the far end of a fart trying to be green so some of the products may still appeal to you.

 

Eco Swaps

Guest Blog: Why I’m Vegan

Many of you may be aware that one way to have a huge impact on the environment is to reduce or remove meat, dairy and all animal products from your diet/life.  Now for me this feels like a long term goal.  At the moment I know I would struggle with such an extreme change, especially as my husband actually asked me on one of our first dates if I was vegetarian as he is a major meat eater.  But I am certainly not ruling it out and in a bid to find out more I asked a friend to write my first guest blog.  Better to hear it from the horses mouth (pun intended).  

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Guest Blog: Why I’m Vegan.

Hi, I’m Andy Clark, 36 years old, married with 2 daughters, Ultra Marathon Runner, Ironman & I’m a Vegan. Here is why:

I’d eaten meat all my life and enjoyed eating it too. My wife has been vegetarian all her life so since living together it was always easier cooking vegetarian meals. I’ve always been a bit of a thinker and looked at things with a critical eye but when we had our first child almost 8 years ago that’s when my view of the world changed massively. I started looking at life differently and had this realisation of what is and isn’t important and a desire to better myself as a human and set an example to my newly born daughter and be a father she’d be proud of. I was, by this point, almost vegetarian through convenience living with my wife but started doing research and chatting to a great childhood friend of mine who was vegan (Carly). Watching documentaries like Earthlings and Cowspiracy, together with some great discussions with Carly and endless hours of research I came to the realisation that being vegetarian wasn’t enough and, although a step in the right direction was rather pointless and massively hypocritical.

Within a few years of being almost fully vegetarian I decided I had to drop dairy and eggs from my diet. At first I found it tough as I missed cheese and struggled to find cheese replacements and after 6 months of trying I quit and went back to vegetarian. That lasted a few months before my moral compass pointed me back to wanting to become vegan. This time I decided I would just accept a life without cheese and I actually found it really easy and without looking have actually stumbled across some tasty alternatives. I still occasionally ate fish but had totally dropped all other meat, dairy and eggs from my diet. I’ve always been active too and was finding my fitness and endurance levels going from strength to strength and my recovery times shortening dramatically and also dropping into the lower spectrum of my ideal weight! This was when I realised I could do it! I’ve now been fully vegan for almost 3 years and not consumed any animal products knowingly in that time. I now have 2 daughters and I can’t think of any greater gift than to live my life with regard for all life and with consideration for the future of our planet. I’m a firm believer that we all have an obligation to leave this World in a better state than when we entered it. I’ve met some great people along the way too and within the last few years have completed a 69 mile and 106 mile ultramarathon, a 50 mile mountain ultramarathon, countless other trail & mountain marathons and ironman Wales which I love mentioning to people who ask, “where do you get your protein/energy.” I can’t ever see myself eating animal products again and slowly my family and friends are getting on board with me being vegan.

There have been some challenging moments along the way and I’m still continually being hounded by people who I feel have a need to justify themselves to me why they eat meat through some form of cognitive dissonance and friends/family who still think it’s a “bit weird” or “just a fad.” I’ve also lost some respect for some people I’m close to. I originally found it tough ordering food when out of the house and felt like I was being a pain in the backside to the person serving me but now I see it as their obligation to understand the needs of customers and I don’t mind making them feel awkward.

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Over time I’ve compiled a list of answers to questions and queries I constantly get as I find it useful to share with people so they get a full understanding. Here they are:

1a. If we all went vegan/vegetarian we’d be overrun with animals?

Farmed animals are not allowed to reproduce naturally and farmers only breed animals when they can make a profit out of doing so. As demand for meat goes down over time, fewer and fewer animals will be bred. That means that we will not be overrun by millions of farmed animals, as some people seem to imagine. Eventually, the few that are left can be allowed to go free. Pigs can root around in woodlands as it is natural for them to do, sheep will graze the hillsides like deer and so on. Their populations will find their own natural levels, just like every other animal.

1b. If we all went vegan/vegetarian all the animals would die out.

If we hadn’t selectively bred them to be fat and docile, they wouldn’t have existed in the first place.

The converse of the above question – we veggies hear ‘em all! It’s true that the number of animals will fall as farmers breed fewer and fewer animals as the years go by. Farmed animals live a controlled, distorted life, often filled with pain and fear. The vast majority of farmed animals are kept in indoor units where they never see the light of day. Those that are kept outside are only kept alive for a fraction of their natural lifespans before being slaughtered for meat, often in the most barbaric manner imaginable. All farmed animals are born to die at our command which is a disgusting idea. Also some breeds have been so changed from their natural ancestor that it would be kinder to let them die out. For example, broiler chickens and turkeys bred for meat are often so obese that they can barely walk and suffer from crippling leg disorders. However we could set up large nature reserves for the more traditional (now rare) breeds that haven’t been so changed.

There would be much more land available for reserves because most of it is used to grow crops for fattening animals at present. Also, there would be more space for forests and woods and other wildlife reservations where genuinely wild British species of animal and plants could flourish. In other countries we could encourage the breeding of our farm animal’s wild ancestors – the wild pig, turkeys and jungle fowl (the forerunner of the battery hen) by stopping the destruction of their homes.

Many people forget that all farmed animals have been bred from wild animals – and that their natural ancestors need preserving.

In a vegan world animals would not be kept for profit and greed but would be allowed to exist in their natural state and live their life in freedom.

2. Our teeth/digestive systems are designed for eating meat.

No, they aren’t. We can digest meat, but our digestive systems are different to carnivorous animals: our guts are longer (so we can digest lots of plant materials) and our teeth are not designed to slice and tear flesh. Our teeth and mouths are the wrong shape to be able to kill and hold captive struggling prey (compare our jaw shape and teeth to a lion – or your pet cat or dog!). That’s why humans cook meat before eating it and why we’re no good at crunching and munching uncooked bones. As for our sharp teeth, gorillas are entirely vegetarian – as are almost all primates – and yet have far longer and sharper canine teeth than human beings. The diet of the ancestors of human beings was vegan until they began hunting about one-and-a-half million years ago but even then meat formed just a tiny part of their diet. That’s why people live long, healthy lives on vegetarian and vegan diets but would quickly die if they ate nothing but meat.

3. Eating meat is natural.

You are right! It is completely natural to use artificial selection to breed animals on feedlots, pump them with antibiotics and growth hormones, slaughter them with machinery, send them to processing factories, package them in plastic, ship them all across the country, and then buy them!

As we’ve just seen, it isn’t. Humans have only eaten meat in relatively recent evolutionary history and then only through the use of tools like spears and fire. Only when we started farming (hardly natural!) did meat become even a regular part of most human beings’ diets and eating meat on a daily basis is very recent – since the advent of factory farming after the Second World War. This brought the cost of rearing animals down and the meat eating explosion was the result. In 1946, for example, the number of poultry eaten in Britain was 31.9 million and in 2001 it was over 800 million. And what’s natural about factory farming, live exports and slaughterhouses?

4. Lots of animals kill for food: why shouldn’t we?

Animals do lots of things we don’t do and wouldn’t do! Anyway, we shouldn’t kill because we have a choice. Lions and tigers etc have to kill to survive (they are known as obligate carnivores): we don’t. Animals can only follow their instincts but we human beings can think about the consequences of our actions. We can recognise the suffering of other animals and we can choose not to inflict it on them. If we choose to make them suffer, what does that say about the human race?

Eating meat is causing mass pain and suffering; it is destroying the earth and is costing the health services millions.

5a. It’s alright to eat animals if they’ve had a good life.

Would it be alright to kill and eat people if they’d had a good life? And what do we mean by a ‘good’ life, anyway? In the case of animals, we certainly don’t mean a long one. ‘Meat’ animals are killed as babies in the case of lambs and veal calves or as soon as they become physically mature – the equivalent of human teenagers – and never get to lead any kind of adult life. Animals, of course, want to live just as much as we do. The first instinct every animal has is to survive. By killing them at all, we are taking away from them the most important thing they have; we are denying their intrinsic right to life.

It is also naïve to imagine that any farmed animals lead good lives: the overwhelming majority of them are exploited, neglected and frustrated on factory farms – forced to lead lives of misery by a farming system which sees them only as ways of producing a profit. They then face a violent, frightening death in the slaughterhouse: despite supposedly humane stunning, millions of animals are still conscious when their throats are cut. Even free range and organic animals suffer on farms (see Question 6) and they face the same shocking death at a young age as factory-farmed animals.

5b. Humane slaughter is ok!

You’d make a great defense attorney. I’m sure you could get lots of murder acquittals with that argument!

6. I only eat organic/free range/fish/chicken anyway

Good. Any choice that people make which reduces animal suffering is a welcome choice – but why stop at some kinds of animal or some kinds of suffering? Fish and chicken feel pain and have an instinct to preserve their own lives in just the same way as cows and pigs. They may be less attractive animals to you but that doesn’t mean that their lives and suffering are less important to them.

Similarly, although free range and organic animals usually (although not always) lead better lives than factory farmed animals, they still suffer in many ways. For example, so-called free range egg farms may involve thousands of hens being kept in a shed with limited access to outside and to limited land. Even in the better free range/organic egg farms, all male chicks are killed within hours – useless by-products as they do not lay eggs and are too scrawny for meat. Even if kept in spacious conditions, free-range hens have it rough. Like their battery cage counterparts, they’ve been bred to lay eggs at especially high rates, which in turn exposes them to all manner of health problems. And nearly all hens, both caged and free-range alike, are slaughtered before reaching the midpoint of their natural lives. That’s because egg yields decline as the hens age, and the cost of purchasing new hens is trivial when set against the increased egg output of younger birds.

All animals kept for farming are prevented from mixing in normal social groups, and ducks never see their ducklings; hens their chicks; pigs have their piglets taken away much too young; dairy cows have their calves ripped from them at one day old. Even on free range farms the male calves are shot as they don’t give milk and are the wrong breed for beef. All farms prevent animals from living natural lives. And all are sent for slaughter as soon as there is more profit in killing them than in keeping them alive.

There is no need to farm or to slaughter any animal. Eating any kind of meat contributes to animal suffering – and to the environmental and world hunger problems caused by the meat industry. The less meat people eat the better and many people find that cutting out meat gradually works best for them – but ultimately, the only truly consistent and ethical choice is to eat no meat at all.

7a. Plants scream when they’re pulled out of the ground or are cut up for food.

This question is usually seen as a bit of a joke, but if you want a serious answer here goes!

Plants do not feel pain. They do not have pain receptors, nerves or a central nervous system. The ‘screaming’ that sensitive equipment has detected when plants are damaged is thought to be caused by movement of gasses. The cut releases the pressure allowing gases inside the plant to move towards the cut, making a noise as they do so. And even if plants did feel pain, the average meat eater is responsible for ten times more plants being killed than the average vegetarian (see Question 10) – because all the animals that meat-eaters consume, eat huge amounts of plants themselves.

7b. Farming plants kills animals too!

Okay. If you promise to watch a video of a slaughterhouse, I promise to watch a video of a strawberry harvest. (Also see question 7a)

8. If you were stuck on a desert island, you’d have to eat meat.

Maybe – but if you were stuck on a desert island you might have to run around naked, never take a shower and wipe your arse with leaves: that doesn’t mean that you should do those things the rest of the time. However, firstly I would find out what the animals living on the island were eating and eat that too.

Let me ask you a question instead: if you lived on a planet where there was an abundance of healthy, cheap food available, and a tiny proportion of that food caused immense suffering to others and was largely responsible for the destruction of your habitat, would you continue to eat it? Because that’s the actual situation you face right now.

9. God put animals on earth for us to eat

Most of us in the UK do not follow religious rules in our lives – but even amongst people with strong religious faith, there is considerable disagreement about whether god wants us to eat animals. No major religions command their followers to eat meat and many devout Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews are vegetarian as are all Hare Krishnas and Jains. Most Hindus, of course, eat no red meat. For most religious people the question remains one of individual judgement. Most religions, however, celebrate compassion, kindness and mercy. The abattoir and the factory farm do not seem consistent with that.

10. If we all ate vegetables and crops, wouldn’t we need more pesticides?

No. Setting aside the question of whether pesticides are needed at all, if everyone were vegan we would use less pesticides because we would actually grow less crops. Meat/dairy animals all eat plants and they convert them into food very inefficiently. On average, a farmed animal has to eat 10kg of plant protein in order to make 1kg of meat – in other words, if the same land was used to grow crops for people to eat, it would be ten times more productive. To put it yet another way, 90% of the crops we feed to animals are wasted. If we didn’t eat animals, we wouldn’t need to grow those crops or use chemicals on them.

11. Eating fish doesn’t cause suffering.

Yes it does. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that fish do feel pain. Industrial fishing causes them immense suffering because they are killed either by being crushed in the net, having their swim bladders explode when they are brought to the surface or by asphyxiating (being starved of oxygen) on the decks of trawlers. Many fish, especially salmon, are also now intensively farmed and suffer from infectious illnesses, parasites and overcrowding.

12. What would happen to the countryside if we stopped having animals grazing on it?

As we’ve already seen, we would need to use less of our countryside for agriculture if we were all vegetarian: that means that more of it could return to a natural state. Britain has less woodland than any other northern European country – we could change that if we didn’t need to use land to grow crops like soya for animal feed.

Far from being a loss to the countryside as some people imagine, ending livestock farming would mean a huge toll of suffering would be eliminated and wildlife allowed to recover (see 1b).

13. Why not do something for people instead of animals?

Vegetarianism does help people. The meat industry causes environmental degradation through things like deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution and the production of greenhouse gases – we would live in a cleaner, better world if we were all vegetarian. Secondly, because meat production is such an inefficient way of producing food it consumes resources which should go to human beings. In the developing world, land is increasingly being devoted to the production of animal fodder for export to the rich world instead of being used to grow food for the local population. Finally, vegetarianism improves human health, which brings rewards for individuals and also to society as a whole which needs to spend less on health care and lost working days through ill health.

Compassion towards animals is not in competition with compassion towards people. Vegetarianism is a choice each individual can make which improves the lives of animals and human beings. It is also a choice about what people eat – not where they work, what they do in their spare time or how they vote. Many vegetarians dedicate their lives to human welfare – Gandhi is the classic example of that.

14. Hitler was vegetarian.

Do you drink water? So did Hitler!

Anyways, back to Hitler being a vegetarian, no he wasn’t. He ate meat – just like Himmler, Goering, Adolf Eichmann, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Attila the Hun, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Harold Shipman, Timothy McVeigh, Myra Hindley and almost every other killer in history. So even if he had been vegetarian, it would prove nothing. But he wasn’t.

15. All the farmers would be unemployed if we stopped eating meat.

People will still need to eat when we are all vegan so there will still be plenty of jobs for farmers! (In fact the intensive farming of animals has caused severe unemployment in agriculture as so few people are employed to look after so many animals. A vegan world would mean more employed in sustainable methods of farming.)

However, even if farmers did become unemployed that is no reason to keep farming animals for food. Eating meat is harmful to animals, to the planet and to ourselves – if it is right to stop it, the employment prospects of those who work in the meat industry are no reason to keep it going. As has been pointed out, if we got rid of all crime, the police would be out of work and if we got rid of all illness, doctors and nurses would be out of work: that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get rid of crime and illness.

16. I don’t mind you being vegan/vegetarian – but you shouldn’t try to impose your views on other people. It’s a matter of individual choice.

Trying to persuade people to change their minds is not “imposing your views” upon them. It is the kind of healthy disagreement which democracy depends on and which is essential for change to take place.

What we eat is also not simply a matter for individuals. Meat-eating and vegetarianism are not two sides of the same coin: one brings death and suffering to animals, damages the planet and harms human health and the other doesn’t. The reason that vegetarians try to change the minds of non-vegetarians is because their “individual choice” affects countless other beings, human and non-human.

17. What difference will one person giving up meat & dairy make?

A huge difference. The average British meat eater consumes, in the course of their lifetime, 5 cattle, 20 pigs, 29 sheep and lambs, 780 chickens, 46 turkeys, 18 ducks, 7 rabbits, 1, geese and half-a-tonne of fish. That is a lot of lives saved. Just as importantly, the best advertisement for veganism is a healthy and happy vegan: if you turn vegan you will be able to influence others to become part of the movement towards a more compassionate and rational world.

18. We’ve eaten meat since we were cavemen.

We’ve lied, stolen, killed one another and made war since we were cavemen too. That doesn’t make those things right. (See questions 2 and 3.)

19. Why do vegans always look ill?

Yeah, I’ve never known a sick meat eater before. It must be a vegan thing!

The answer is they don’t. That’s like asking why toupees always look bad – it’s just that you only notice the bad ones. If you know someone (who knows someone….) who was ill they do not represent the normal vegan. Carl Lewis, winner of 6 Gold Medals seems fine to me! Vegan athletes

20. If the animals weren’t happy and healthy, they wouldn’t grow/lay eggs etc

Just not true. People don’t grow big because they’re happy and neither do animals. Meat chickens today grow almost twice as fast as they did 50 years ago – yet they live in far worse conditions, crammed into stinking, windowless broiler sheds by the tens of thousands and suffering from lameness and other problems. They don’t grow big because they’re happy but because they have been selectively bred to gain weight quickly, are given growth-promoting drugs and are fed on special diets.

Similarly, dairy cows have been bred to produce far more milk than is natural to them. In fact, the dairy industry relies upon making animals unhappy – by taking their calves away so that humans can drink their mothers’ milk – in order to function. Laying hens have been bred to produce so many eggs that they lose calcium into the shells and suffer from brittle bones and fractures as a result. They don’t lay eggs because they’re happy: they have no choice!

21. Isn’t it boring to eat salad and tofu all the time?

You are right. I do get pretty bored of eating seitan ravioli in wild mushroom sauce with cashew cream, and I think I will go crazy if I have to eat black bean chilaquiles with pepitas for breakfast again. It is much more exciting to eat grilled chicken and scrambled eggs all the time!

22. Why is honey not suitable for vegans?

Bees produce honey for themselves, not for humans. They are often harmed in the honey gathering process. There are plenty of ways to protect insect populations, support crop pollination, conserve the environment and sweeten our food without farming bees or buying honey, propolis, beeswax or royal jelly. To replace honey in your diet try golden or maple syrup, date syrup, agave nectar or even dried fruits.

23. Where do you get protein!?!?

Despite what you’ve heard most vegans don’t find this a problem. Not so long ago, conventional wisdom had it that vegans and vegetarians risked dangerous protein deficiencies. But over time this myth has largely died out, doubtless due to the fact that have been virtually no instances of vegans falling victim to acute protein deficiency. Grains, beans, nuts, and vegetables all have surprisingly large amounts of protein. So vegans who get enough calories and eat a decent variety of foods are unlikely to be protein deficient. While outright cases of protein deficiency are extremely rare, it’s certainly possible to be on the low end of the spectrum for protein, especially if you don’t take in many calories and if fruit or refined sugars make up a high percentage of your diet. If that’s the case, you’ll want to be sure to include more protein-rich vegan foods in your diet. Some extraordinarily good vegan protein sources include:

• beans
• lentils
• spinach
• kale
• broccoli
• mushrooms
• peanut butter
• nuts
• tofu
• peas
• quinoa
• tempeh
• soymilk

Some people are obsessed with protein. Vegans are bombarded with questions about where they get their protein. Athletes used to eat thick steaks before competition because they thought it would improve their performance. Protein supplements are sold at health food stores. This concern about protein is misplaced. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. Only about one calorie out of every 10 we take in needs to come from protein. Vegan athletes, especially in the early stages of training, may have higher protein needs than vegans who exercise moderately or who are not active. Vegan athletes’ protein needs can range from 0.36 to 0.86 grams of protein per pound. Protein supplements are not needed to achieve even the highest level of protein intake.

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How much protein do we need? The RDA recommends that we take in 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram that we weigh (or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh) This recommendation includes a generous safety factor for most people. When we make a few adjustments to account for some plant proteins being digested somewhat differently from animal proteins and for the amino acid mix in some plant proteins, we arrive at a level of 0.9 gram of protein per kilogram body weight (0.41 grams per pound). If we do a few calculations we see that the protein recommendation for vegans amounts to close to 10% of calories coming from protein. [For example, a vegan male weighing 174 pounds could have a calorie requirement of 2,600 calories. His protein needs are calculated as 174 pounds x 0.41 g/pound = 71 grams of protein. 71 grams of protein x 4 calories/gram of protein = 284 calories from protein. 284 divided by 2,600 calories = 10.9% of calories from protein.] If we look at what vegans are eating, we find that, typically, between 10-12% of calories come from protein. This contrasts with the protein intake of non-vegetarians, which is close to 14-18% of calories.

So while it’s certainly possible for a vegan (or anybody for that matter) to come up short on protein, it’s a relatively rare occurrence.

B12 is a substance produced by cyanobacteria in the soil, and the notion that you can only get it from animal products like meat and cheese is FALSE. Anyone can become B12 deficient even meat eaters. Animals are also routinely injected with b12 or have it put in to their food.

If any of you would like to follow Andy then look him up on Instagram: andycgeordie.

Now I know some of that information will be a bitter pill to swallow and for some reason it really is a topic that polarizes people, almost as much as religion and politics but take it for what it is, an explanation why one person has chosen a different way.  You are not a bad person if you do not want to become vegan, it is just food for thought.  Personally I am going to start by trying one vegan meal per week.  I am also going to try more vegetarian or vegan food when eating out.  Another option is what I have recently seen termed as a flexitarian:

noun

a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but sometimes includes meat, fish, or poultry.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions for Andy but good vibes only people.

 

Eco Swaps, Recycle

Think Outside The Cardboard Box

Yes that is a scary image and that is because recently reading about the environment has scared the bejeezus out of me.  So welcome to my first real rant post, if you like scary films then read on.

I didn’t want this blog to be about convincing people why we need to sort our shit out, I wanted it to help people and maybe inspire them but some times we all need a kick up the arse.  My main concern is that people don’t understand that it is not just our actions that need to change but how we think about the environment and how we view the world.

It is not just about recycling and buying a new product, we need to start thinking outside of the cardboard box.  Reduce before you need to reuse.

photo of pile of ripped carton
Photo by Luka Siemionov on Pexels.com

A perfect example of this was in an article I read the other day by Labour MP Clive Lewis stating:

Currently we’re counting on our children and grandchildren to devise tech to suck vast amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere after 2050 – no pressure, kids Article link

What the actual f…. talk about belts and braces action or as I like to say arse over tit.  Prevention is always better than a cure people.  We can’t pin our hopes on future technology to solve problems that we already have.

Now I am not stupid, this guy is a Labour MP and Jeremy Corbyn has just announced his plans for the environmental reform but the he makes some damn good points:

And therein lies the political truth at the heart of the sustainability and decarbonisation project we’ve embarked upon. The understanding that tackling inequality – a core Labour purpose – dove-tails perfectly with saving the planet. A new socialist narrative for the 21st Century beckons, if we have the courage and vision to pursue it.

Political issues aside we do need courage and vision to tackle climate change.  Another point raised in the article is that we are missing out on a huge economic benefit too. As people become more aware and dedicated to the issue it drives up demand for environmentally products, places to live with lower emissions, jobs that help the environment rather than hinder it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we were known as the most environmentally friendly country in the world, it might encourage tourism, we could export our bright ideas and best practices.  Hell we might even be happier?

Seriously, you look at countries which pole highest for happiness, namely Scandinavian countries.  The official ranking is based on GDP, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and corruption.  Check out The World Happiness Report.  They appear again in the top spots for the worlds most environmentally friendly countries, check out Yale’s Environmental Performance Index.

 Global 2016 EPI results

Being kind to others, kind to the environment and having that reciprocated it just good for you.  Think bigger, think better.  Taking the perfect selfie whilst wearing fast fashion, with plastic nails, plastic eye lashes, chemically dyed skin, getting drunk every weekend to numb the thought of your dead end job on Monday just doesn’t fill the gaping holes inside.  I am not trying to be judgy here as those are just examples that are easy to pick on when I am 34 and those things are no longer of interest to me.

People think they don’t have time to get ‘involved’, it isn’t about extra actions it is about adapting existing ones.  How about instead of gassing to your husband tonight about Beryl two doors down bonking Roger from over the road, talk about one change you are both willing to make.  It can be tiny like swapping the brand of washing up liquid you use or turning the thermostat down 1 degree.  Or it could be bigger like taking the kids to the beach at the weekend and filling a bag with rubbish that otherwise would end up the stomachs of birds or fish.  Once you realise how easy some changes are it will inspire more.

I have a friend at work who recently stopped buying cleaning wipes, the kind filled with chemicals that cost a lot, don’t last long and end up in landfill.  She has replaced them with microfibre cloths and a bottle of all purpose cleaner that I bought her from Tesco’s Ecoactive range.  And guess what?  She prefers it, she feels things are cleaner and she has saved money.  She asked me today what else can I do? 

I am not asking you to suffer, I am not asking you to give up what you like or love.  I am asking you to take control and help yourself and others.

Some thing else you may have seen in the news recently is people posting packets of crisps back to Walkers to force them into action regarding being able to recycle said packets/produce packets that biodegrade.  The good news is that as a temporary solution to the problem Walkers have teamed up with TerraCycle to create the UK’s first nationwide recycling scheme for crisp packets (all brands) from December. 

chips close colors crisps
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

The power of the people did good, but how many of those people who posted those packets will now store them in their house and send them off to TerraCycle, or even better how many of them will commit to organizing a collection point?  I really hope all of them but I also doubt it.  People are looking to the big companies or the government to solve their problems but as this shows we all need to make an effort or it just doesn’t work.

Not convinced?  Then have a neb on BBC iplayer and check out a recent programme called Drowning in Plastic.

I am far from perfect but I am trying and that is all I ask of you.  Please help me, help your self and help the world.

Eco Swaps

Natural Hair Colour?

One of the goals I have set myself to help ease into this process is when needing something new, try and find a more eco friendly version.

Every six weeks or so I dye my hair, I normally bulk buy my dyes as it is cheaper.  But I allowed myself to run out of my normal brand and shopped around for an alternative.  I hate going to the hair dressers, the time, money and small talk is just not something I enjoy.  So I have dyed my own hair for many years and have had it almost every colour going, pink, blue (those in my younger days), blonde, red, brown and most recently auburn.  I did try to go au natural a couple of years ago only to discover the appearance of grey hairs and that my natural colour is now a grubby looking brown.

This has been a reluctant change as I loved the colour my hair has been recently and I had found a cheapish brand that worked well.  I therefore tried to get a similar colour in the new product.

I did what any lazy person does and googled eco friendly hair dye.  A lot of what came up included Henna. I am a little cautious of Henna products after hearing so many stories of people having bad reactions to it.  I also read some information that the colourant in Henna is actually considered toxic by the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, see an article by The Naked Scientists.  I think the options are also very limited by my colour preference.

In the end I chose the convenient option of Naturtint mainly because they have a colour which resembled the one I was hoping for.

20180903_164050

Below is the blurb that sealed the deal:

Naturtint’s pioneering new formula is now ‘naturally better’ and enriched with even more natural ingredients to actively and gently care for the health of both your hair and scalp, whilst delivering the best cosmetic results – stronger, smoother, softer, healthier, younger looking hair.

Maximum Care
  • No Ammonia
  • No Resorcinol
  • No Parabens
  • No DEA
  • No Silicones
  • No Paraffin
  • No Mineral Oils
  • No Heavy Metals
  • No SLS
  • No Formaldehyde Derivatives
  • No Artificial Fragrances

I would like to point out that as good as that sounds I can see straight away that it has a huge list of ingredients included which I doubt are all eco friendly, but I am not an expert and in this instance it is free of some of the main nasties I have heard of.

It costs £10.99 per dye which is about £4 more expensive than what I would normally pay, but I did manage to order two through an offer with Holland and Barrett and got them delivered with some other things I needed to qualify for free delivery.  So in the end it cost me £16.48 for two.  I also have a rewards card for Holland Barrett so eventually the points I earned will be put towards other things.  Just because I am trying to buy healthier/eco does not mean I am going to just accept everything being more expensive.

Let us look at the packaging from the delivery, had I picked up from store this wouldn’t be an issue but I was actually pleasantly surprised with what I received.  All paper and cardboard, no plastic tape so it all went straight in the recycling.

20180903_164007

The packaging for the hair dye is not so great.  Cardboard outer box but inside is just like any other hair dye, lots of plastic.  However I didn’t expect anything else, as the brand is obviously more about reducing harmful chemicals than going plastic free.  When any kind of chemicals are involved I understand safe and practical packaging would take precedent.

So do I like it?  Yes and no, I liked the product itself.  It smells nice, my hair felt very conditioned afterwards and it worked but it is just not the colour I was hoping for.  It has an artificial red tone to it when I was hoping for a more natural auburn colour, it is also a lot darker than what I was using so my roots still look dark in comparison to the rest of my hair.  See the terrible before and after photos below.

My decision now is do I try another product, use my second box of the same colour or stick with Naturtint but try a different shade?  Cost wise I am reluctant to buy more without another deal so I will have to wait and see.

I feel I am very far away from a true eco solution, other than not dying my hair which I am just not ready to accept.  So please let me know if there is another way and comment below.