Packed lunch.

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In an attempt to save money and avoid the temptation of buying packaged things, I’ve been taking a proper packed lunch. A properly organised packed lunch! Me!

Lunch is my least favourite meal. I’ve got breakfast down, and it’s a chuck-it-all-in-the-bowl scenario so it’s easy. Dinner is the fun one, when I get to try out new things and invest my time and energy into making something I’m proud of. Lunch on the other hand… What even is lunch? Anyway, that’s a question for another time.

After working out a lunch that is sufficiently filling and easy/quick to prepare, this is my current set-up along with the products that help me avoid rubbish and plastic!

First up, I make a sandwich with the baguette I buy package-free at the market, and fill it with peanut butter and jam. I have this pouch from Keep Leaf which seals with velcro, then folds out to a handy mat so that I don’t leave crumbs wherever I’m eating (usually a desk or in the café). I normally just brush off the crumbs and wipe the inside down with a wet cloth when I get home and it’s good to go again! It can also go through the washing machine I believe. It’s a great alternative to foil/cling film/sandwich bags which all end up in landfill.

I buy dry goods package-free every two weeks and I tend to alternate between almonds, cashews and brazil nuts. So whichever of these I have in that week, I wrap up a handful in a hanky to take with me. To tie up the hanky you simply take opposite diagonal corners and knot them together so that the ends of are laying over the remaining two corners (top right picture above). Then you make a second knot with the remaining two corners. It works a treat!

 

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Finally an apple and an orange go in. I then put all of the bits in my Keep Leaf lunchbag. Keep Leaf specialises in using organic fabric to make eco-friendly products and I think it’s  awesome. The food pouch/mat is a particular favourite and comes in useful all the time! Lunch sorted.

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Zero waste bathroom.

When I think back to over a year ago, my bathroom was pretty ordinary. And by ordinary I mean I used a handful of plastic bottles, packets of wipes for various things, toothpaste in a plastic tube. It was all I really knew, but it seems like so much packaging and plastic now! Not only is my bathroom (so almost!) plastic-free these days, but my routines are simpler and cheaper to the point where, environmental benefits aside, I would still continue as I am because I just prefer it. My ‘products’ last so long that thinking about shopping for bathroom things (with the exception of toilet paper) is so rare it’s practically non-existent! Read on to the end for my full collection of toiletries, but first…

Here are some tips on where to start decluttering and greenifying your bathroom:

  • Do an audit– the first thing to do when cutting down on any type of waste is to find out what and how much you actually create. Keep or note down all the trash you make in a week/month and make a list of the items you use that create rubbish.
  • Find solutions– For each item identified look into purchasing/making alternatives. In many cases, it’s as simple as switching from disposables to reusables! Googling “zero waste [insert product here]” is a good place to start 🙂
  • Use it up– It’s super tempting to chuck out all your products and just start fresh with new and improved ones, but it’s wasteful. The few times I have done that I’ve ended up making a hasty decision and wishing I’d given myself time to research the best alternative. Use your time wisely, and when that disposable item runs out, you can replace it with a well-informed alternative.
  • Coconut oil is your best friend– really. It does so much. Having products that double up for multiple purposes saves money and space when travelling (see here for list of coconut oil uses).
  • Get rid of your bin– if you have a bin in the bathroom, ditch it. If you make it more inconvenient to throw things away, you’ll become more aware of every bit of waste you produce and you’ll find yourself trying to avoid creating more!
  • Solids are your best friend too– When you buy things that come in bottles, not only are you going to have to send the packaging to landfill (it’s normally plastic), but the companies are selling you soap plus a load of water. When you buy solid soap/shampoo/conditioner it lasts ridiculously long because you add the water yourself every time you use it. Normally solid soaps etc. come in cardboard/paper/no packaging too so it’s win win!
  • Simplify– since I no longer use cotton pads and wipes, and I use one soap for everything (rather than face soap, body wash, foot scrub, hand soap etc.) I’ve realised they weren’t really necessary, and I appreciate not having to buy them ever again! The less you have, the less you have to maintain with your time and money 🙂

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From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Salt of the Earth deodorant, Holland and Barrett (see my review here)
  • Jagen David safety razor, Ebay
  • Body soap bar, LUSH (don’t know its name, sorry!) in a Savon du Midi soap tin, Green Fibres
  • Wooden face brush, Boobalou
  • Hand soap bar (gift) on a shell soap dish (gift)
  • ‘The Plumps’ conditioner bar and ‘Jason and the Argon Oil’ shampoo bar in a tin, all 3 from LUSH
  • Hair styling cream (last bits from a large tub, I just transferred it into the jar)
  • Homemade toothpaste in an aluminium tin, repurposed from a toiletry gift set
  • Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Castile soap bar, Wholefoods and Activated charcoal soap bar, Living naturally on a glass butter dish

I like to mix and match soaps for different things, and I wanted to try them all out, but when they eventually run out I’ll be able to streamline this collection a little bit more.

 

There are a few items missing above, such as my toothbrush, (mentioned here) and a jar of coconut oil that I picked up in Holland and Barrett but this list is the bulk of it!

5 things this Monday.

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I was determined to get this post up today, and there may only be half an hour left of Monday, but it still counts! Without further ado…

  1. Ariana from Paris To Go is a regular feature on 5TTM because she writes so well and knows so much more than me about navigating different situations without picking up trash on the way. Recently she shared 1o ways to travel zero waste which I’ll definitely be re-reading before I next fly.
  2. I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’m interested in going completely shampoo free at some point in the future. The more I read about it, the more it makes sense that your hair can take care of itself. Previously I’d only ever come across people with straight or wavy hair doing it (mine’s curly), but I saw this post and it’s really encouraged me to pursue it. Watch this space…
  3. Julie from The Beauty in Simple shared her reflections on not buying anything new. It’s so good to see others doing things like this to remind you why it’s so important. She is honest about her failures doesn’t let them discourage her from doing her best- go Julie!
  4. I love my menstrual cup, but the thought of travelling with it to places where I don’t know what facilities there are has often crossed my mind. Girl For A Clean World’s post covers her 8-month travelling experiences and she also interviews other travellers on why they use theirs. The verdict? It’s still the best way for convenience, money-saving, and not having to find/get rid of sanitary products in the middle of nowhere! I would highly recommend giving this a read whether you have a cup yet or not, it’s interesting 🙂
  5. I don’t like to end on a downer, but I was shocked when I saw an article that read that the Great Barrier Reef was dead. In actual fact it’s not quite dead, but it’s is under severe stress due to global warming. I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure I’m doing something to stop that from happening. It’s not too late!

Little things.

Today I thought I’d take a leaf out of The Beauty in Simple‘s book and share a list of small things that I am grateful for or excited about at the moment. I really love the fact that you can find beauty and value in the every day, mundane details and I’m trying to get better at it, so here goes…

5 simple things that have made me happy this week:

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  1. On Mondays I get the majority of my food from the market on my uni campus. I bought a beautiful baguette off a very nice lady who complimented me on my baguette-shaped cotton bag. My day was made and it hadn’t even hit 12! snapchat-3653081788801760395
  2. My worm bin finally arrived! Watching all the little wriggly babies settle into their new home and giving them their first load of food scraps was really amazing yesterday. I may have stayed there watching them until the very last one wriggled underneath the surface of the soil before I reluctantly put the lid back on… Expect a post soon about how I’m getting on with this new compost method! snapchat-6525766345540802439
  3. Having a cold really blows, (GET IT!) but since I’ve been using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, I don’t get that sore red nose thing that I thought was inevitable. Plus I keep them in this jar in my room, and all the colours and patterns look so nice together. snapchat-314470562345266043
  4. Today rounded off week 3 of my final year at university, (eek!) and whilst it’s pretty hectic, I’ve managed to minimise the things I take with me. I have one bag (a year ago I would’ve been rotating at least 3) one notebook and one folder for all my lessons. It is really nice not to have to empty and refill my bag and risk forgetting things, because I just carry it all around every day.snapchat-3383675782844297014-1
  5. Breakfast for me consists of jumbo oats soaked overnight in nut milk, 1 chopped banana, 1 chopped date, a handful of nuts and a sprinkle of vanilla/cinnamon. It’s filling, refreshing, yummy, healthy- I can’t think of a better way to start the day!

Small steps.

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I am reluctant to even mention the word ‘gardening’ at all in this post, because what I’ve been doing feels pretty far from it in many ways, but it’s exciting and a small step in the direction of gardening!

I found out recently that you can grow certain vegetables (spring onions, leeks, lettuce etc.) from the root in just water. So in theory, if I planned it right, I wouldn’t need to buy any of these again! I started off with spring onions, saving about an inch off the bottom and submerging its root in some water in a jar. Just over two weeks later I have these babies!

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The longest one (which I’m assuming I planted first)  has had about 5 inches of regrowth! In the next few weeks I’m going to chop it up and see what it tastes like. In hindsight, I might still be buying spring onions in the future, as the yield I’m currently getting is considerably smaller than you would get if you bought them. However, I’ll add a shoot or two to the shop-bought onions I’m using, why not. Eventually when I have a nice big collection, it’ll pay off, especially when you consider that they are organic.

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several of my growing onions has started to sprout another stem!

I have enjoyed watching these little guys shoot up so quickly, and it’s nice to have something low-maintenance to look after to ease myself into it! This week I’m adding a leek root to see how that does alongside the spring onions on my windowsill. See this article for a list of veggies you can regrow from water with tips 🙂

 

Tips for zero waste food shopping.

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A recent disposable cup-free success!
  1. Keep a canvas/mesh bag on you for spontaneous shop visits. I’ve pretty much got my normal weekly food shop down without creating rubbish, but whenever I’m caught out it’s when I’m travelling or out and I remember I need something because I have no option but to take a plastic bag in the shop. You’re best off with one fabric bag on you for ’emergencies’ 🙂
  2. Cloth for dry goods, mesh for produce. I made my own small drawstring bags to store food in when I go bulk shopping, but you don’t have to search hard online to buy them if you’re not craftily inclined. I use cloth (calico) bags for grains, nuts etc. because these products can be crumbly. Using mesh bags for produce is often helpful in markets and supermarkets however, because the checkout person needs to know what and how many items you have.
  3. If it looks impossible, ask anyway. This one is generally more effective the smaller the business (some large companies have annoying policies on stuff), but still. There may be plastic/paper bags laid out for you to use, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to ask ‘is it alright if I use my own bags?’ or ‘would you mind putting that in my own container please?’ I worked myself up to ask someone to put my smoothie in my own bottle a few weeks back (pictured above), and she was just like ‘yeah no problem!’ The worst that’ll happen is they’ll say no, so you have nothing to lose.
  4. Package-free first, recyclable second, and try to avoid plastic. This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but prioritise buying package-free items first, then settle for recyclable packaging (non-plastic) next. Cardboard and glass are widely recycled, but even if your council technically collects your plastic, most of it won’t be recycled and the rest will be down-cycled (turned into a less valuable type of plastic which’ll then go to landfill after use). Jars are great for repurposing too, so there’s that.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s taken me over a year to get to this point, and I still have to throw stuff in the bin more than I’d like. But it’s about being better than you were last month, last week, even yesterday. Small changes are far likelier to stick than doing it in one fell swoop (I’m reminding myself here, as much as telling you!)

A really useful app for finding package-free products is the Bulk app (now a website) created by Béa Johnson of Zero Waste Home. You type in the area you want to search, then you have the option to pick the types of products you’re looking for (optional), and it shows you the locations on a map! I would encourage you to have a look if there’s anywhere near you.

1 year on: LUSH ‘Right Eyes’ mascara

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I got this mascara from LUSH a few weeks after my arrival in France, and initially it was a purchase I was very sceptical about. Compared to conventional mascaras, this one takes far more application to get the desired results not to mention the short brush which takes a lot of getting used to. On the plus side however, it is one of the few mascaras that comes in an even partially recyclable packaging AND it’s made of mainly natural ingredients- woo!

What I really do love about it is that it doesn’t irritate my eyes (I would often have to clean off my old mascaras in the early evening as it would get in my eyes and start stinging). When I first bought it, the consistency of the mixture was thin. It was like wetting your lashes with a black liquid. It was really easy to smudge onto your lid by accident, especially with the short brush. You had to let it dry then reapply (LUSH advises using several coats). With time the mixture becomes more like conventional mascara, and I tend to only apply 1 or 2 layers nowadays.

Price:

Again, I bought my mascara in France, but in the UK ‘eyes right‘ sells for £12. This is a pretty competitive price for a mascara. Depending on what brand you are used to using, you could be making a saving, or at least paying the same amount as before.

Durability:

You are supposed to replace mascara every 3 months, says a Google search I did just now. I may have hung on to this one 4 times too long, woops. Over time the consistency only got better, and I haven’t had any adverse effects from using it so long. I guess it’s up to you as to how long you keep yours.

Verdict:

Now that I have had a year of using this mascara, I have gotten used to the texture and short brush. If you prefer significantly bolder, thicker lashes, it’s just not gonna give you what you want; thankfully all I want is a mascara that makes my lashes a teeny bit longer and darker. In my opinion it’s a small price to pay for a product that uses significantly more natural ingredients, has a better animal rights and ethical record and comes in a more recyclable bottle than nearly all its peers. As for the future, I plan to wash out the bottle and refill it with a homemade zero-waste mascara. If that fails I will repurchase ‘eyes right’ then recycle the old glass bottle.

5 Things this Monday…

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  1. This post called ‘My Zero Waste is not Pretty‘ is brilliant. I am definitely guilty of wanting to make everything glamorous and beautiful which means I’ve turned down perfectly usable items I already own to replace them (not really the point of this whole zero waste malarkey…) I definitely needed the reminder that it’s a slow and not always pretty process.
  2. The infogram above from Food Navigator USA illustrates the difference your diet makes on the environment, from regular meat consumption to vegan. Hopefully it’ll be an encouragement wherever you are on that scale towards eating less animal products, that every little bit counts- keep it up!
  3. Next up is a video that came up on my suggested videos on Youtube. I don’t currently follow this guy, but his story about why he became vegan is both funny and original. He explains why he doesn’t broadcast his views and why it’s really easy to judge other people and it’s just quite refreshing to get another perspective. I think he’s a cool guy basically.
  4. These 5 reasons to avoid plastic containers are a must-read. Plastic is everywhere you look nowadays, but keeping it off your food is so important, especially when you know the stuff it can do to you.
  5. Last but not least, Ariana from Paris To Go addresses a concern I hear quite a lot: that the thought of wearing secondhand clothes is somehow dirty. As I read this, it reminded me of what I was like about certain items a few years ago. The post is so well-written and covers the disturbing reality of new clothes today, as well as practical tips for cleaning and restoring secondhand products before use. My favourite read of the week I’d say.

Make do and mend.

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You might remember I picked up this book on one of my charity shop hunts this summer. It is a reprint of an original book published during World War II advising people on how to make their clothes last longer and repair them during the austerity of war-time, when clothes were very hard to come by. I sort of picked it up for an interesting read, rather than to actually learn about clothes maintenance haha, but I didn’t get far in before my first burst of inspiration hit!

There are chapters on clothes maintenance and washing etc., but the one that made the most impact on me was the one on darning. Even typing the word now conjures up the image of something out of a period drama, but it’s actually not as complicated and more effective than I thought it would be.

One afternoon I stuck a series on Netflix and dug out two items in need of a good darn, and in a matter of hours it was all done! The book outlines darning techniques for a heap of different types of material, but I just used the standard one (see this post by Béa Johnson, it’s basically the same technique) for my first item.

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Before (right) and after (left)

This is a bandeau-type bra that I stupidly stuck a safety pin into to hold a top up once (hence the annoying holes!) Up close it looks sort of messy, but a few weeks on I can safely say that the sewing holds up when stretched and I matched the colour of the thread really well too which helped to make it look more professional.

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Before (top) and after (bottom)

Next up is that dress that I oh-so-gracefully managed to rip at the armpit and not notice for ages until I was taking it off one day! Good times. ‘Make Do and Mend’ recommended that I do a blanket stitch around the raw edges of the hole and then sew the seams together which ended up looking like this. The dress is quite dark in reality so the black thread barely shows, and it sits under my armpit anyway. I could’ve done this more neatly in hindsight but it definitely does the job, and I wasn’t ready to let this dress go!

So there we have it, 2 articles of clothing diverted from the scrap heap with a little bit of thread and a needle! If you’re not confident sewing, it’s worth asking around your friends and family for help. I hope this inspires you to see if you can salvage anything you would’ve otherwise chucked 🙂