Trash Challenge Week 4

So here we are at the beginning of March, which means my trash challenge is done! It’s been four weeks of collecting all the rubbish I’ve generated (excluding items such as food waste), and it’s given me even more ideas for reducing my impact on the environment. Here’s week four’s photo:

Trash Challenge Week 4

  • 2 milk bottles
  • 1 large yoghurt tub
  • 1 glass soy sauce bottle
  • 1 bread bag
  • 1 small butter tub
  • 2 sausage roll wrappers
  • pizza packaging
  • 1 spring rolls box and plastic tray
  • plastic wrap and plastic tray from a whole chicken
  • 1 cod fillets box
  • 1 mine packet
  • 1 plastic grapes tray
  • 1 takeaway container
  • 1 crackers box and inner bag
  • 1 garlic bread bag
  • 3 chocolate wrappers (2 used for baking, 1 given as a gift)
  • 4 paper cases from a biscuit tin
  • 1 individually-wrapped mini roll
  • 2 old gift cards
  • assorted recipes and small pieces of scrap paper
  • prescription bag
  • magazine wrap and paper advert
  • junk mail (which came before I put a note on our letter box)
  • 3 cardboard toilet rolls
  • 3 contact lens cases
  • 1 Amazon box, paper padding and note (from a gift)
  • 1 instructions list
  • 1 sticker
  • 1 plaster and packaging
  • 1 cardboard label

There’s definitely still a lot I want to do, but this challenge has been great at making me more away about what I throw ‘away’ every week. If you’re stuck in an eco-rut or just fancy a challenge then give it a go!

This week I put a ‘no junk mail’ sign on our letter box, bought a sandwich from a sandwich van and had it put straight into a container not a paper bag (I was very proud of this!), tried to buy more things in bulk (such as meat and baking ingredients). I’ve kept baking too, which has definitely saved on a lot of plastic waste.

Supermarket shopping is a little scary for me at the moment, because I’m so conscious of all the packaging surrounding me. But it’s great to be aware of it, and I know that I’ve definitely reduced waste from fruit and veg shopping, so that’s a big plus. Here are my four photos from the challenge:

Trash Challenge Week 1 Trash Challenge Week 2

Trash Challenge Week 3 Trash Challenge Week 4

I don’t feel like I can see much of a difference from my photos, but as I said before, it hasn’t been very long yet. My blog is all about changing your impact on the environment and I know that if I keep making small changes then the amount of rubbish I produce will reduce. One of my main aims is still to cut down on food packaging, particularly that from meat and fish.

I hope you’ve found this challenge interesting – I really think it’s something everyone should try, even if it’s just for a week! If you don’t fancy collecting it, then you could try making a list of everything you throw away, and taking a look at it at the end of the week. Maybe you can spot some habits that you can change?

As always, I would love to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Flossing

So the topic of today’s post presented itself to me a few days ago when I vowed to myself to floss more often, only to pick up my dental floss and realise that it had nearly run out. A bit inconvenient, but I decided I’d have a think about what was best to buy next before I headed down to Boots as usual!

What bothers me most about the dental floss I use is that it comes in a plastic container, which of course has to go to landfill once the floss has run out. Plus the floss itself is designed to be disposed of after one use. Just a quick search on Boots’s website found five pages of floss-related products, the vast majority of which – excepting an expensive Rechargeable Power Flosser – are disposable after one use.

My next thought is – is flossing essential? Unfortunately, as I’m not a dentist, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question, but I have made a mental note to ask my dentist the next time I see her. It would be great to know her stance on it, but then I’m sure that dentists have differing opinions on this anyway. Do you know what yours thinks?

So for now assuming that I would like to keep flossing, what can I do instead? I have found a great article written by Beth Terry of the blog My Plastic Free Life, which runs over a number of options (in this post she also discusses toothbrushes and toothpaste). They are American products, so if you’re not American they might not be available to you, but interesting reading to see the different options out there nevertheless:

Eco-Dent dental floss in a cardboard box

Eco-Dent:My choice, after weighing all the options, is Eco-Dent dental floss. It’s what I’ve been using for the past two years, and I really like it. Unlike any other brand of dental floss I have found, it comes in a recyclable cardboard container. That was the deciding factor for me. While there is a very thin plastic wrapper inside the box and two protective plastic stickers on the outside, the amount of plastic packaging is minimal compared to all other brands.

What’s more, the floss is waxed using 100% vegetable waxes rather than beeswax or petroleum-based wax. The Gentle floss contains enzymes that help break down food particles between the teeth. The Vegan floss does not, as those enzymes are grown on a dairy substrate. Either sounds great, right? Well…

The floss itself is made from Nylon. Plastic. But I’ve compared Eco-Dent to other brands of floss, and to me, it’s the best choice currently offered.

Radius: Radius natural dental floss is made from silk. If you’re vegan, forget it.  If you’re not (I’m not), you still have to consider the packaging. The outer cardboard box can fool you. Inside is a regular plastic dental floss container.

Tom’s of Maine: The floss is made from Nylon with a hard plastic container inside the cardboard box.

DenTek Natural Floss Picks: In addition to their plastic floss picks, DenTek has created an “eco” option: individual disposable floss picks made from compostable starch rather than petroleum-based plastic. According to the company, they will break down in 180 days at a commercial compost facility. And the FAQ on the web site includes a link to instructions for building your own compost bin if you don’t have a commercial facility nearby. It seems like a green idea. But when you dig into the reality of it, you find just more greenwashing.

Bryton picksBryton Picks: Okay, this option just seems weird. I had to post the picture from the site because I couldn’t even figure out how to accurately describe these things. Bryton picks are not floss. Instead, they are made from flexible stainless steel strips that you slide up and down between each tooth. The handle is made from plastic. On the plus side, the device can be cleaned and reused for up to a month, probably longer. But I simply can’t imagine them actually working in the way that dental floss is supposed to work — below the gum line and around the teeth.

I’ll ask my dentist and get back to you.

Glide and other mainstream flosses: They’re made from Nylon or Teflon (worse), come in plastic containers, usually inside plastic blister packs, and are synthetically waxed. So why even consider them?

After doing some reading, I’m really interested in trying the Eco Dent Gentle Floss that Beth recommends. I’ve found it available on Amazon so I might try it (incidentally, I have been feeling unsure whether I want to continue shopping from Amazon so much when I do shop, but that is a big topic so I will save it for another post!)

It’s disappointing that the Eco Dent floss is still made from nylon though – nylon is synthetic, and is made from petroleum products, so you can see why this might be one to avoid. But cutting down on the plastic packaging is a step in the right direction. If you’re more concerned about the nylon, you could try to find a product made of silk (see Beth’s discussion of Radius, above).

How have you got round this problem? Which floss do you use?

Why Organic?

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about how eating organic food is much better for you than just buying the non-organic fruit and veg the supermarkets generally have for sale. But as with my post about climate change, I think it’s always good to remind ourselves exactly what organic food is, and why it can be better for the environment.

So, first of all, what is organic food? The Soil Assocation describes organic food here: “Our definition of organic food is food which is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods on organic farms. These methods are legally defined and any food sold as ‘organic’ must be strictly regulated.” And organic farming is “recognises the direct connection between our health and how the food we eat is produced. Artificial fertilisers are banned and farmers develop fertile soil by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.”

Different countries have different standards that have to be met for a product to be classified as organic, but you can’t define a food as organic if it risks contamination from non-organic sources, e.g. having a field of genetically modified (GM) crops next to your field means there could be a risk of cross-contamination through the air. Also, some products – such as fish – can’t always be certified organic (in this case, the water they live in is influenced by so many factors that’s impossible to guarantee that it’s organic!) So certifying a product as organic is actually much trickier than it sounds, as crops, animal feed etc. can all be accidentally cross-contaminated, even if by a GM seed that blows onto the farm.

But what are the pros and cons of growing and eating organic food?

Pros:

  • No chemicals (such as pesticides) are used. Chemicals can kill wildlife and leach into water, causing health problems in animals, which can eventually work up the food chain and affect humans. They can also be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, so even if you wash them before eating, you might still be eating some of the pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Crops are rotated so the soil isn’t exhausted and still contains nutrients without having to add fertilisers and chemicals. This also breaks pest and disease cycles, as they don’t have a constant supply of food (according again to the Soil Association website).
  • Conserves biodiversity – as above, wild plants and animals won’t be damaged or killed by chemicals designed to make crops grow better.
  • Organic livestock will have regular access to pasture. They also cannot be given antibiotics.
  • More carbon is stored in the soil.
  • No genetic engineering or use of genetically modified products is allowed. So crops can’t be GM, for example, and animals can’t be fed with GM foods.

Cons:

  • Growing organic crops takes up more space than growing non-organic, so more land will be required to grow the same amount of organic crops.
  • Crops and animals can be more prone to pests and diseases as no chemicals or antibiotics are used.
  • Organic foods might not last as long as non-organic foods as they won’t contain additives to help them keep longer.
  • Organic foods are generally more expensive than non-organic foods.
  • Consumers have to rely on certification to know whether a food is organic or not, unless you buy straight from the farmer or producer.

I came across this good infographic a while ago (you can find it pinned on my Pinterest board Going Green – Food). Of course, not all fruits have stickers on, but this is a good guide to go for. (Click on it to make it bigger!)

fruit-stickers2

If you want to know more, you could start with the Soil Association website, or these articles: When Organic isn’t Really Organic and The Hypocrisy of Organic Farmers.

What do you think? Do you eat organic?

Persuading People to Go Green

Today’s post was inspired by the post ‘You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green’ from Erin at Inspired Earth Connection:

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.

When I read this post, it made me think about how I feel knowing that the majority of people in the world have little or no concern for the environment, including many people that I know. As Erin’s title suggests, you cannot scare people into going green. Sometimes I am so absorbed in the thought that I want to make my own life as green as possible that I forget that the people around me are oblivious to everything I am working towards. They might be avid consumers, not think about where their waste ends up or not make decisions based on ethical or environmental concerns.

I used to not think about the environment much beyond recycling and turning off lights. Now I’ve started this blog and done a lot of exploration, I’ve realised that these two things, whilst easy to do and a great first step on the way, are only the tip of the iceberg. But what do you do when no one around you seems to care, even if you talk about it?

I’m as guilty as any number of people for trying to ‘up-sell’ going green and also being critical of other people who aren’t at the same stage as me. When you are so passionate about doing something (and so frustrated that not everyone has realised what needs to be done to reduce climate change), it can be incredibly hard not to try and persuade people to do what you’re doing.

But, as Erin says, you can’t scare people into going green. As I am realising, everyone is at their own stage and trying to persuade someone to do what they’re not comfortable doing will just make them more determined to stick with the way they are. Some people need educating about climate change, some people need help making the first step, others are doing their best to make a difference and others still are right at the other end of the scale, aiming for zero waste and sustainable lifestyles.

By starting up this blog I hoped to show my readers that going green isn’t overwhelming if you take it one simple step at a time. I think that by quietly doing what you can, rather than shouting about it, you will be able to show other people – without necessarily trying to actively persuade them – that a green lifestyle is one that’s both possible and enjoyable.

I have been told that when I talk about going green it is clear that I am passionate about it and I think this is something that does help people to become more engaged in the cause. If you love what you’re doing then it will seem more attractive to others!

Going green is always a work in progress and you might not feel like you’re doing very much, but by not scaring or persuading people into it, you could still be helping to shift someone’s opinion by being an example of the change you want to see in people. I think education and research are both vitally important in the drive towards sustainability but at the same time it is important not to go too far and alienate people.

How do you feel about this? Do you feel frustrated that not everyone understands the need for sustainability? Or perhaps you’re at the other end and are overwhelmed by reports on climate change and calls to do something about it?

P.S. I’m a guest blogger this week! If you want to check my first ever guest and non-environmental blog post, pop over to my friend Ellana’s blog!

100 Happy Days #3

Well, as you may have noticed from a lack of 100 Happy Days posts on my blog, unfortunately I stopped taking the time to think about the simple things that make me happy each day, let alone take photos of them!

But I have reminded myself how important it is to focus on the simple, often free, things in my life that make me happy, especially when things can get overwhelming. So here are some of my photos from this week!

I know the minimalist bloggers that I follow are great at focusing on simplicity and this really can help cut out things in your life that aren’t good for you or the environment .

IMG_1377

I wore this dress on Monday and it made me feel so summery and cheery! I was in two minds about keeping it before but I enjoyed wearing it and got compliments on it too, so it stays!

DSC_0105

I was waiting on a platform for a tube home, and it was really nice to just stand in the warm sun.

DSC_0106

I’m knitting a sock – I haven’t made much progress and it’s a little untidy (I’ve never knitted from the toe up before) but I feel like I’m gradually cracking it!

DSC_0111

A 100 Happy Days post wouldn’t be complete without a photo of a cat!

DSC_0113

I’m currently reading a book called The Gift (also known as The Naming) by Alison Croggon. It’s one of my favourites and I’m enjoying reading it again.

How do you incorporate this attitude towards simplicity in your own life?

Candles

When I wrote about Earth Hour, I mentioned turning out the lights and using candles for an hour. I have to confess that I took it as given that burning candles must be better. But how good is it to be using candles? All I could have really tell you before writing this post is that a candle is made up of a wax and a wick. I didn’t know where the wax came from, what the wick was made of, and what sort of emissions burning a candle can give off, if any.

So I did some research online, and looked at some candles for sale, and it appears that most candles are made from paraffin wax. They can also be made from more natural materials such as beeswax, soy, other plant waxes and tallow.

Throughout history, all over the world, candles were traditionally made from tallow (animal fat) and wicks made from natural materials such as rushes. But since the 1850s candles have been generally made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum, coal or shale. During my research I found conflicting views as to whether burning candles emit many emissions and whether they are harmful. After doing some reading*, I think my view is that because when I burn candles I don’t tend to burn many at once or for very long, their impact shouldn’t be very high. I think it depends how much you use them and what they are made from.

But whether or not they contribute much to your emissions, I still think it’s disturbing that this is what candles are made from. To be honest, I’ve never actually bought myself a candle but I have been given many as gifts. But I would still like to know: what about alternatives?

100% beeswax or soy candles (check whether the soy is GM if that’s something that bothers you) seem to be best, or those made from natural vegetable wax. They are natural (check what the wick is made from too) and are unlikely to cause allergies or emit hazardous chemicals the way paraffin candles do. A good rule of thumb is to check what the candle and wick are made from and whether any synthetic fragrances are contained in them. I found this article, ‘Are Soy and Natural Candles Really Natural?’, really useful for how you work out if a candle really is all natural or not.

I can’t believe I’d never thought to investigate this before. It just shows how far I still have to go on my journey to go green! What do you think? Do you burn candles often? Or maybe you make your own? Do you think paraffin candles can have an impact on your health?

*If you want to read more about this, you could start with articles such as Candles Are Ten Times Worse for the Environment Than Bulbs or Particle Emissions From Candles Are No Health Hazard, both of which I came across during my own research.

Vapour Rub

As many of us are at this time of year, I’m just getting over a cold. The last time I had a blocked nose I bought myself a small tub of vapour rub from Boots, but now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t just be better if I made my own. I’m still going to use up what I already have – I feel like it would be a bit of a waste if I didn’t – but considering that its main ingredient is petroleum (crude oil – Vaseline is made of this too), I definitely want to move on from it when I can!

I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for a while now, and although I can’t vouch for it as I haven’t actually tried it yet, I thought it sounded quite simple and straight-forward so I’m definitely planning on giving it a go!

Coconut Chest Rub

Ingredients
1 heaping spoonful extra virgin coconut oil, in solidified state
3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
3 drops lemon essential oil
*3 drops peppermint essential oil

*my first batch didn’t include this, but my next one did!!
As always, remember to keep essential oils out of the reach of children, and try to use organic ingredients when you can.

1. Mix them together in a small pot and rub into your chest and upper back.

2. If it’s coldish in the house (say, less than mid-20c C or 60s F) you can keep this out at room temperature. Otherwise, put it in a cool place (like the fridge or entryway) so the coconut oil doesn’t liquify.

You can find the original post at http://www.easypeasyorganic.com/2010/05/coconut-chest-rub.html.

Have you tried any similar organic/homemade/eco friendly vapour rubs or cold remedies? It would be great to hear about some more and learn which would be good to try!