Small efforts.

Writing posts seems to be beyond me recently, my head space is not really ideal. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped trying. Here are some little ways in which I’ve been trying to be healthier, happier and better to the planet in the last week or so…

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Not zero waste (weetabix came in cardboard and paper, raspberries in a plastic punnet) but I’ve been feeling pretty down this week and eating well has helped no end. I made this insanely yummy stew the other day that had 7 vegetables, 2 types of lentils and filled me up like you’d never believe! At least my body can be happy and I don’t have the added burden of feeling so sluggish.

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My student loan came and I invested in some good tech that should last longer than the rubbish cables you get with your phone which are designed to last approximately 5 minutes. These House of Marley earphones are made from FSC certified wood, have fabric covered cords for durability I love them.

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In my quest to lead a slower, more conscious life, books are making a comeback. Reading calms me down in a way a million Netflix shows couldn’t come close to doing. And the same goes for knitting (another hobby I’m pouring time into at the moment). There’s something about committing yourself to the process and being completely absorbed which I’m only really learning the true value of now.

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A selfie?! On my blog?! I know, I know- but how else do I talk about my crazy hair! Chopping it all off was the best decision I ever made for its health, but the growing out process has been long. A year and a half in, and I can put it up in a ponytail, but I mainly just leave it to do its thing (above). I like the way it does whatever it likes, and watching how my natural, untamed hair in its full glory.

 

Thanks for reading, friends 🙂

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5 things this Monday…

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Evening friends!

  1. First up, a petition! Let’s show the supermarkets that we as the consumers do not want our produce smothered in plastic. Sign this petition and share it with your family and friends- let’s do this.
  2. A London cafe has ditched dairy after watching a 5 minute video on the dairy industry called ‘dairy is scary’. They put the above poster in their front to explain why. It’s so exciting to see companies taking action after educating themselves 🙂
  3. I have finally started using this search engine that I heard about a little while ago. They plant trees with the money raised from ads. I’ve only used it for one day and they are committed to planting 8 trees on my behalf- talk about an easy way to do something awesome for the planet! See this video for more on how it works…
  4. Looking for a zero waste alternative to hair gel? Well look no further! This amazingly easy recipe requires only flax seeds and boiling water. And that’s not even the best part- you can use the seeds again and again before composting them!
  5. If you’re based in the UK you will no doubt be familiar with many of these restaurant chains. Fun fact: they all have vegan options and some even have a whole menu. YIPPEE!

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!

1 year on: LUSH ‘Right Eyes’ mascara

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(Source)

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.

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 #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.

Zero waste in Kingsbridge and Totnes

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This is Dartmouth, but still 😛 (Credit to my sister, Naomi. Thanks!)

I got back from a family holiday to Kingsbridge in Devon last week. We stayed in some friends’ place which I’ve been to several summers in a row, but this time I have some things to say with my zero waste lenses to look from! Here are a few of my observations…

Charity shops here are on another level of awesome! Kingsbridge is a small village with a small high street. And yet there were at least 6 charity shops to choose from. And Totnes (where we made a visit on one of the days of our trip) had an even longer high street choc-full of charity shops- like 15+! It’s my new favourite street on the planet. Not only was there frequency, but in general the quality and range of items that were stocked were extraordinary. I saw large sections of baby furniture and clothing, cookware and toys (and all the normal stuff) at amazing prices and in unbelievable condition. In this neck of the woods, charity shops can be relied upon to find consistent quality and range, unlike my usual London scavenges which often end in disappointment, or having to really rummage for a gem amongst the rubbish. Although I didn’t buy anything I did marvel at all the opportunities. It seems that buying from and donating to charity shops is much more of a common practice.

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Nicholson’s Emporium– this little shop in the middle of Fore St. (the high street) specialises in eco products among its homeware and gifts. I stepped into the back room to find Ecover products in large kegs that you could refill, as well as glass jars of spices behind the counter for bulk buying.

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Green Fibres– At the top of Fore St. in Totnes (confusingly their high streets are named the same!) is this little shop that sells organic socks and underwear as well as a heap of staples for zero waste living. I personally picked up an aluminium tin to keep soap in, an organic cotton grocery bag, and two replacement heads for my Redecker washing up brush (I was about to give up hope of finding these in person and turn to the internet), but they had handkerchiefs, natural soaps, wooden toothbrushes and all sorts too!

If you’re ever in the area, check these out. Apologies for not taking pictures of these places, I’m terrible at remembering these things!

Teeth.

 

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Convention dental care is a disposable nightmare with plastic everywhere you look. What makes it even worse is that toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss need to be regularly replaced meaning tonnes of landfill. I used to think there was no way around this- we have to brush our teeth after all- but I have developed a pretty near zero waste routine that works for me and I thought I would share.

Firstly, there are many different approaches, enough to suit everyone’s needs and preferences. Alongside my solutions I will list sources directing you to other alternatives for dental hygeine that I don’t personally use, but that you might find helpful nonetheless. I know it’s a personal thing.

Toothbrush:

This bit is an easy swap-out. Instead of buying plastic toothbrushes, get your hands on a bamboo toothbrush. I started off with this one from the Environmental Toothbrush Co. which was really soft and was thick and sturdy and ergonomic to hold. It was nice for a first dabble into wooden toothbrushes but the bristles were non-biodegradable, so I switched to Save Some Green. This toothbrush really is 100% biodegradable, and although it isn’t as luxurious, it uses less wood and does the job. I buy them online from their website in a pack of 12 which lasts around 3 years! I haven’t had to stick any of my past brushes in the compost yet because I save them to use for cleaning.

Toothpaste:

I’m nothing if not lazy haha so I picked the easiest toothpaste recipe I could find. 2 parts coconut oil to 1 part bicarbonate of soda (see here for recipe and demonstration video). I put a pea-sized amount on my toothbrush and brush as normal then rinse with water and spit. It does taste a little salty (due to the bicarb) and it doesn’t froth like traditional toothpaste, but I’m not a fan of mint anyway- if you are add peppermint oil- and within a week I was used to the taste and consistency.

When I saw my dentist in May, he asked if I used a fluoride tothpaste and I told him what I use. He said that my teeth were perfectly healthy and there was no decay in my mouth. He said that bicarbonate of soda was fine to use to brush my teeth but he did recommend fluoride toothpaste as it is good at protecting teeth from staining. Basically, the gist I got was that it’s down to what you eat and when which determines your liklihood to develop tooth decay or staining. As a healthy eater who only really drinks water, I’m dong half the job.

I also know that the act of brushing is the most important element of the process, regardless of what substance you use- if any at all! Sometimes if I run out of toothpaste or leave it somewhere I brush with a dry toothbrush, and whilst I wouldn’t do it everyday, my teeth are still clean and smooth. I also use natural soap such as Dr. Bronner’s or Living Naturally occaisonally (wet the brush then rub it over the bar) which does the job too.

Floss:

I have to admit, I’ve never been a flosser. My teeth are on the gappy side so it’s not a massive problem, but in recent years I have been making an effort. Finding a plastic-free or vegan floss (some use silk) has been a bit of a challenge. I settled for now on a gum stimulator which I bought in a pharmacy (unfortunately came in plastic + cardboard). I run it in between my gums and teeth a few times a week at the moment, and when I feel it necessary.

This link will take you to an article by a vegan zero-waster analysing the options available to you if you do want a floss alternative.

5 things this Monday…

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  1. Going Zero Waste posted a really practical and detailed explanation of how to get zero waste takeaway food. The author is honest and realistic and her tone is so cheerful. I am super grateful for this article as it is something I definitely need to work harder at…
  2. I love it when The Simple Things post up snippets of their life- it’s a reminder to notice the beauty in the everyday. Here’s how making your own food and living waste-free can be gorgeous.
  3. I have decided not to buy any more new leather for environmental and ethical reasons, but eco-friendly and durable alternatives are difficult to come by. However, there are brilliant people inventing materials that perform similarly to leather, made from natural, plant-based sources!
  4. Zero Waste Home’s app for sourcing package-free products worldwide had to take a break due to funding and technological issues, but it’s back! This time you can access bulk locations from your phone or online which is even better. Definitely worth checking your local area as well as anywhere you might be visiting to find tried and tested zero waste shops.
  5. Ariana of Paris To Go has reviewed her year of washing her face and hair with solely water, and I have to say I’m inspired. She, like me, suffers with acne and her skin- after a period of adjustment- seems to have reacted really well. I can’t keep my eyes off her hair either, it just looks so healthy! I’m keeping this as something to work on in the future.