1 year on: LUSH shampoo bar

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I have been a little in love with LUSH products for a few years now. When my liquid shampoo from them ran out in September last year, my thoughts turned straight to solid shampoo bars. I’d tried a combined shampoo and conditioner bar previously, and due to a mixture of my laziness and the conditioner in the bar, it turned into a sloppy gloop.

My experience this time around has been quite the opposite. I picked the ‘Jason and the Argon Oil’ bar- I’m going to be honest- just for the name, (I’m a sucker for a pun) but then I smelled it and I knew I definitely needed it in my life! I keep it in an aluminium tin, and rub it against my wet hand in the shower to build up a lather which I then massage into my scalp. Some people like to rub the bar directly onto their heads, but I prefer to use my hands so I can work it through my roots with my fingers.

Price:

I got mine in France, but I just checked the LUSH website and it sells for £6 in the UK. This is maybe double the price of conventional bottled shampoo in the supermarkets but surprise surprise, it lasts waaayyy longer!

Durability:

A year on from the purchase date, my bar is still 3/4 its original size. I always leave it out to dry after I shower before closing the tin and putting it away which helps it to last.

Verdict:

This bar smells great, lathers up well and does the job of leaving my hair clean. It is made from vegan-friendly, mostly natural ingredients which is good enough for me at the minute. I would purchase this bar again, but I am interested in forgoing shampoo altogether in the future, so we’ll see what happens when this runs out.

No spend October

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Yeah… So this is happening.

Somewhat (read: very) reluctantly I have decided to tackle my spending habits head on. In September 2015 I vowed not to buy any more clothes for as long as I could, and with the exception of a coat (honestly a necessity) I lasted the all the way until April 2016. It actually became easy after a while, and I got to know my style- I even got rid of stuff! I’m not technically doing that ‘challenge’ anymore, but I still rarely buy clothes (and now I am far better at knowing whether it’s just an impulse buy to fill a void).

I have noticed however that over the summer, in my quest to build up my eco-friendly homeware collection, I may have just replaced one obsession (clothes and general stuff) with another (wooden stuff, stainless steel and jars). Yes, I may be buying almost exclusively secondhand, but having more than I need isn’t good for me or the planet.

You know you’re onto something when the thought of challenging a habit makes you feel nervous (me right now) whilst the feeling you get from buying yet another jar (I know, I’m sad!) gives me a buzz.

I’m going to start off with a realistic set of rules for this one month challenge, as I don’t want to be so restrictive that it changes the way I socialise, but here’s what I’ve come up with as an initial goal:

CAN SPEND MONEY ON:

  • food
  • drinks/food with friends
  • experiences

CAN’T SPEND MONEY ON:

  • clothes
  • items

My plan is to see how this goes, then feedback at the end of the month. In a weird way I’m both apprehensive and excited for the results!

5 things this Monday…

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  1. First thing’s first, this is one of the most hopeful things I’ve read in a while- the Swedish government is cutting VAT on repair services. Increasingly it seems more logical to buy new appliances and items because repair is either expensive or unavailable, but the bottom line is that repairing is simply out of fashion and doesn’t fit in with convenience culture. It makes sense that our first port of call should be to try and fix things- GO SWEDEN!
  2. I’m no stranger to recycling weird and wonderful things, but this prototype for a shoe made from recycled carbon emissions blew my mind! I don’t understand the science behind it, but it’s so great to know that people are putting their heads together to come up with ways to divert pollution from destroying the earth. Every little helps after all.
  3. In a move towards transparency and better treatment its garment factory workers, GAP has published the names of the factories that supply its clothes and shoes. In theory, this move gives workers and advocates the ability to alert the companies of injustices for swifter correction amongst other things.
  4. And the good news just keeps on rolling! France has banned plastic cups, cutlery and plates as of 2020, and plans to replace them with compostable alternatives. It is a good initiative to start the process of reducing pollution, but some argue (fairly) that it might send the wrong message; greener living isn’t just subbing one material in for another but rather wasting less. That said, I still think the less plastic floating around the better.
  5. After 4 pretty monumental events this last one seems a little trivial, but hey ho: StyleCaster gives 10 ways to remove wrinkles without an iron. I relinquished my iron recently after using it a grand total of about once a year, and I have to say I don’t miss it; but if I found myself in need I would definitely consider a few of these ideas! Most of them require no planning or specialist equipment which is right up my street 🙂

Review: Live and Let Live (2013)

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This documentary in a nutshell is people telling stories about how they came to veganism. What makes it really special is that it draws from a variety of different people (activists, dieticians, ethicists, athletes, farmers) but feels like an honest, laid-back conversation.

Among the interviewees was a guy who worked his way up from washing dishes to cooking in restaurants to owning his own. At that point, responsible for the most minute details of his establishment, he realised he was authorising the death of animals needlessly. The life he now leads is not only cruelty-free, but he is passionate about organic, local produce that’ll bring nourishment to his customers and honour the lives of the creatures he shares the earth with.

None of the subjects claim to be saints, nor do they preach; they simply tell their stories. They explain how they used to live, the moment they realised that consuming animals was wrong, and why they continue to live that way. Often they mention health, but the overwhelming reason is that, to paraphrase from the film, they finally opened up their circle of compassion to include animals.

The concept of carnism (eating meat) is broken down in the documentary. It requires the covering up of the inherent violence involved in bringing meat to our plates, the denial of the logic that- at least in the west- we would be horrified to learn that the meat we were eating came from a cat or dog, but completely satisfied to hear that the burger we’re eating is made from the flesh of a cow. It’s good to be reminded that there is a whole system keeping people in this destructive practice, but that it’s completely possible to become aware and break free as well.

Watching people, in some cases decades on from the point I’m at, reminded me that my level of compassion still has room to grow and that I have things yet to learn- but in a really exciting way.

I could go on, as usual, but if you’re interested I hope you’ll watch it yourself. It’s available on Netflix UK now.

1 year on: Salt of the Earth deodorant

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I bought this alum stone deodorant in the summer of 2015 from Holland and Barrett, very soon after I discovered the zero waste movement. I was super eager to stock up on supplies for my ‘new life’ and did research into waste-free deodorants. Of all the alternatives I found, I thought this one seemed pretty easy; all I had to do was buy it and use it, just like I did before. Only this time, I would be using a completely natural product that created no waste!

To use an alum stone as a deodorant, all you need to do is wet it underneath the tap then rub it over your armpits. It doesn’t soften, nor does a load of liquid come off it, it just feels like you are rubbing a wet stone on your skin (funnily enough!) But it works- it does an amazing job of keeping you odour-free all day long, plus if you’re already a little smelly it ERASES IT INSTANTLY. Can you tell I’m impressed?

I would say the difference between this and a conventional roll-on is that it doesn’t actually smell of anything. It prevents or removes smell, but doesn’t add anything else. No perfumes, no chemicals, no colour, yay! Another thing I only discovered in the last few weeks is that alum stones can be used after shaving to stem and close any nicks or cuts or settle any redness or inflammation.

Price:

I paid £3-ish for mine (the smaller travel size version) which is about double what a conventional roll-on costs, but this lasts wayyyy longer so I’ve definitely saved.

Durability:

As I said, I bought the deodorant stone a year ago, and it has only shrunk by about a 1/4 or a 1/3. If you make sure to dry the stone after use- which I have done with the exception of a couple of times when travelling-  it will last a crazy long time. It’ll no doubt still be going in another year!

Verdict:

My review of this product is near-on flawless. The stone is lightweight and small enough to travel with, it keeps you fresh, it lasts a billion years, literally what more do you need? My only regret is the packaging. In my hurry to stock up on all things zero waste I neglected to notice that it comes in a plastic screw-on cover (pictured). When my stone eventually runs out I am going to try and source the bare stone. If you fail to find one package-free, this is a good compromise.

London Discoveries #4: Cookies and Scream

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I mean, the excited Snapchat picture says it all, right? Me and my brother and sister went to Camden recently to wonder around the market, and maybe I was just a little bit excited to have an excuse to try out this bakery- just a little.

Cookies and Scream is tucked away in the Camden Lock market (I may have circled around and got a bit lost trying to find it…) squeezed in between a load of other food places. There is a little seating area just opposite it but it’s quite crowded in there so I took my food outside. There were brownies, cookies, milkshakes and all sorts of other glorious baked goods. I went for the conservative choice of chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, obviously, and it was literally heaven. Forget vegan, that may have been one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

All their products contain soya and traces of nuts, so steer clear if you have an allergy to those, but Cookies and Scream is 100% gluten-free and vegan 🙂 Do drop by if you find yourself in the area.

1 year on: Diva Cup

So I had an idea to start a new series. I’m just about reaching a point where I have been using certain green products for a year. As I get to that point with each of them, I’ll stick up a review. That way I know I won’t be recommending anything that I haven’t thoroughly tried. It might be that I think I’m going to continue using it for years to come, or I think I’d rather try something else- we’ll see!

The first thing I’m gonna review is actually something I started using about 4 years ago now, although it doesn’t feel like it! Funnily enough I bought one completely unaware that 3 years down the line I would be actively trying to avoid waste, I think I was attracted to the ease and savings.

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The Diva Cup is a menstrual cup, meaning that rather than using tampons or sanitary towels on my period, I simply insert this cup. For average flows you only have to empty twice a day (morning and evening). It took quite a few cycles to get used to exactly how to insert it properly and I had a few mishaps, but now I’ve got it down I’ll never go back!

Price:

I think I paid around £20 for my cup, which at the time was quite an expense. However, it pretty much pays for itself in a few months. I can’t even imagine how much money I’ve saved in 4 years- I actually don’t even remember how much pads cost!

Durability:

On their website, Diva Cup advise that you inspect your cup for signs of wear and assess for yourself when to replace it. I have had mine for pretty much bang on 4 years and I know plenty of people who’ve been using theirs for years as well. I do plan on replacing mine soon though.

Verdict (keep or move on?):

I would thoroughly recommend the Diva Cup as it is a perfect solution for waste-free periods. Even aside from the eco credentials, it has transformed the time of the month from having to be careful where I go and what I do to carrying on as normal, even swimming and playing vigorous sport. I don’t suffer from major pain generally on my period, but my level of discomfort has dramatically reduced since I stopped using toxic sanitary towels.

I am firmly committed to menstrual cups, but I plan on trying out another cup for a few reasons. 1) aspects of the design make it harder to keep clean than other cups 2) I want to find out if another shape/texture would suit me better. Basically I would go back to the Diva Cup, and use it for years to come, but I want to try other things.

5 things this Monday…

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  1. First up Pret a manger, a UK-based sandwich shop for anyone international, set up a veggie (all vegetarian/vegan food) pop-up shop for a month in Soho, London. It did so well they kept it open all summer, and that did so well they’re keeping it open for good! It’s so encouraging to know that society is moving in the direction of plant-based food, and that even massive chains are taking note. See the article explaining their decision here.
  2. Talk about blowing my mind, here’s another awesome story: Bundanoon: Australia’s First Bottled Water Free Town. To protest against a bottled water company that planned to truck water from them to sell in Sydney they sent a clear message and banned plastic bottles in 2009. ‘Bundy’ residents can fill up their reusable water bottles at taps all over the town. SO COOL!
  3. Courtney from Be More With Less shares 8 tips for small-space living, that are simple and straight forward, but really useful too. No matter if you live in a small place or not, following this advice will have you on your way to simplicity and freedom from an endless cycle of messing up and tidying up (I know that all too well!)
  4. Brasilian brand Insecta takes on the dominant culture of leather and meat consumption by creating vegan shoes made from vintage clothing (pictured above). The business has been doing really well and it just goes to show that people are eager to support green alternatives. Plus they’re really awesome-looking shoes 🙂
  5. Finally, have you ever wondered how to pack a zero waste picnic? As with everything, it’s all in the preparation. This article explains down to the smallest details how they avoid waste from the food containers to wet wipes. I’m definitely hanging on to this for future reference!

London Discoveries #3: Labour and Wait

I’ve been on a mission this summer to stock my home with equipment and utensils that are better for the environment. The search has led me to various places, (mentioned here and here) and Labour and Wait had been on my radar for a while. I actually thought they were just an online shop to begin with, and then I realised it’s based in Shoreditch- I needed no more excuses than that!

Labour and Wait specialises in homeware made from natural or hard-wearing materials, from wooden brushes of all shapes and sizes to enamel kitchen items. I went through the website and wrote down the items I planned to buy before going, as I’m trying not to impulse buy.

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Firstly, I bought this set of 4 bottle brushes on a key ring (to which I added my straw brush, pictured). As I have a collection of different sized bottles for homemade juice and storing grains, these’ll come in handy.

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The second and final thing I bought was this plastic-free dustpan and brush set. The aluminium dust pan is actually pretty cool (I know, I just said those words about a dust pan); it sits flush with the floor for easy sweeping, and the handle is surprisingly ergonomic. It’s also really lightweight which I wasn’t expecting either. The wooden brush is all natural, but unfortunately made out of boar-hair which I didn’t think to check and later read on the receipt, woops.

Labour and Wait prides itself on stocking products of value and that’s something of a rarity nowadays. I’m definitely keeping it in mind for my future household needs.

Unhelpful comments.

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Have a picture of the motorway in Spain in 2014, go on.

This is an issue that I was aware of, but never considered writing about until a pang of frustration hit me whilst scrolling down my Facebook feed and I read a post saying something like ‘you call yourself an environmentalist but you still eat meat HAHAHA’. The tone was very belittling and aggressive and I just don’t see the need.

I would be lying if I said knowing what I know now doesn’t make me want to shake all my friends and family and say ‘do you realise what this does to the planet?!’ but that would make me two things; 1) disrespectful of the fact that everyone comes to their own decisions. Just as they respect my decision to not eat meat, I have to accept theirs. 2) arrogant considering that less than a year ago I couldn’t fathom why anybody would want to stop eating meat.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have conversations about the effect of meat eating on the environment, it’ s just about adjusting your attitude. Until every aspect of your life is faultless, it is unfair for you to make anyone feel lesser because of something they do. No one wants to feel that someone else’s opinions are being shoved down their throat, and it doesn’t really work anyway.

So how do you challenge the people around you to think about meat consumption? Here are 3 ways that respect other people’s autonomy:

  1. Recommend a documentary- Netflix was the main source of evidence that convinced me to become a vegan. Unlike books or articles, most people will find it easier to sit and watch a documentary because it’s quick and passive. Whether you watch together or leave them to themselves, the hard facts speak for themselves and it could be the spark that gets their minds ticking. Netflix has a good range of documentaries to suit personality types, priorities (health, planet, animals) and depth of scientific knowledge. I’ll leave a list at the end of this post of places to start.
  2. Be an example- I don’t go very long without having to mention my dietary requirements somewhere, and at least half of the time when I do, someone asks me why. That’s your permission to -briefly- explain your reasons. It might end there, or it might be the beginning of a discussion; either way that person has registered the choice you have made and you never know if further down the line it might trigger a change.
  3. Make + bake- Food is the way to the heart, as they say, and what better way to demonstrate your lifestyle than by showing its best bits? I’m compiling a collection of cake recipes and have made 3 birthday cakes in the last few months for family members. Making food to share with others means that firstly, you can eat it (unlike shop-bought birthday cake for instance) and secondly others will see that veganism doesn’t require any more effort or sacrificing taste.

Basically, stay respectful and remember that when it comes to any subject, we are only ever responsible for our own decisions. A little creativity goes quite far though!

 

Documentaries to recommend:

Cowspiracy– focuses on the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, quite science-y

Vegucated– an all-round introduction to issues related to meat-eating. Follows a group of diverse meat-eaters as they learn more as an experiment to see if they change their diets.

Food Matters/Forks Over Knives/Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead– focus on the effects of eating meat  vs. plant-based (vegan) diet on health. Food matters is stats heavy with lots of case studies and graphs. Forks Over Knives is a bit more testimony based with facts to support. FS&ND follows 2 men’s dramatic journeys towards better health through a plant-based diet.

Earthlings (not on Netflix)– morality/animal focused, it goes through the main ways that animals are used in society (food, pets, experiments etc.) showing real-life typical scenarios for animals. It’s harrowing and exposes a lot of suffering that we are shielded from in everyday life.