Here is an ingenious alternative to plastic washing-up brushes, or the ubiquitous yellow sponge, green scourers and metal scrubbing pads: the humble loofah and coconut plants! Try Michael’s Original and LoofCo loofahs for dishes and Safix coconut fibre scrubbing pads for pots & pans. 100% compostable, non-toxic, hygienic, effective and long-lasting. Only a click away, and packaged in nothing but a little cardboard, at Greenbrands.co.uk. Husband Pete was delighted when we first started using these: “These are tougher than the yellow plastic sponges and plastic brushes, they do a better job, they don’t gunge up and they last so much longer.” The coconut scourer is tough but doesn’t scratch pots and pans. The loofah is soft and squeaky when wet and is brilliant for cleaning dishes, cutlery and glass. I’m happy too, because Pete is doing the dishes!
Yellow kitchen sponges with the green or white scouring pads are made from petroleum and are 0% biodegradeable. They shed microplastic into the water as they deteriorate and at best they last a few weeks. Basically they are a complete nightmare for the environment and everyone uses them. I still have some lurking under the sink because we used to buy them in spades. I look at them suspiciously now that I have my new loofah-and-coconut friends – not quite sure what to do with them… If I’d known how easy it is to find an alternative, I would have surely switched years ago.
Jeff Bridges has a message for us. And it’s loud and clear. Do watch this through to the end – otherwise you will only see the depressing bits and miss the practical advice about the little but vital changes we can all make to our daily routines. Show this to your kids – they understand stuff like this intuitively. Thank you to the Plastic Pollution Coalition for this video and their amazing work.
Elderflower cordial is one of the loveliest and tastiest things to make in June. The flowering season is almost over now but you only need a few handfuls of flower heads to make three or four bottles. We make some every year using glass bottles with clip tops and rubber seals. It is so tasty added to ice cold, still or sparkling water or as a hot cordial in the evening. There are lots of recipes online, many of which add citric acid or use honey instead of sugar. I use this super simple recipe which makes about 2 litres of cordial which can be stored in the fridge or in a dark, cool place for a good few weeks. You can also freeze it if you leave enough room in the bottles for expansion.
To begin with I sterilise 3-4 glass bottles with clip tops and rubber seals in a preheated oven at 130C for 20 minutes. You’ll also need some muslin or a fine sieve and a funnel. Make the cordial as soon as you’ve collected the flower heads as they go brown very quickly.
25 to 30 elderflower heads
3 lemons and 1 orange
Remove larger stalks and any little insects from the flower heads
In a large pan, boil the water and sugar and gently simmer until the sugar is dissolved
Roughly peel the fruit with a vegetable peeler and add the peel to the pan
Cut the fruit into slices and add to pan together with the flower heads
Remove pan from heat, cover and leave for a few hours to infuse – I usually leave it for half a day but you can leave it overnight for a stronger taste
Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or very fine sieve
Use a funnel to pour the syrup into sterilised bottles and seal them.
The Plastic Oceans Foundation is a UK charity that wants to change the world’s attitudes towards plastic and be part of the solution. Plastic Oceans has assembled a team of the world’s top scientists and leading film makers to put together this documentary over the past four years. Film producer Jo Ruxton was also involved in groundbreaking productions such as Blue Planet, Pacific Abyss, and LIFE.
Sir David Attenborough introduces the documentary:
Early one morning in down town Stroud, I bumped into my friend Jemima who was standing outside a shop waiting for it to open. I had never consciously noticed this shop before so I followed her in as we were chatting. It was the Stroud Valleys Project shop and I couldn’t believe I had never been inside it (neither could Jemima). The shop is filled with ethically sourced household items, bird feed in paper sacks, books, gardening supplies, stationery and more – mainly made from natural and sustainable materials. I was ecstatic to find a roll of British made compostable bin liners made from 100% natural materials (they smell like vegetable broth).
Jemima handed her empty refill bottles of laundry and washing-up liquid to a friendly looking chap who asked “Ecover or Bio D?” I was curious to learn what ‘Bio D’ might be and was shown into the back room where an Ecover refill station was dwarfed by a row of unbranded containers with various grades of locally made laundry detergents and cleaning liquids. Here you can fill up your glass bottles if you’d prefer that to a plastic bottle. Apparently ever since Ecover the company was sold, their products have contained GM ingredients and other objectionable components and many people are looking for a greener alternative. How is it that I drive miles to an Ecover refill station when I have this gem of a shop right at my doorstep? Why did I never notice it before or take the time to investigate what Stroud Valleys Project actually is? I think the reason is that these small community initiatives are overshadowed by the glare and dazzle of the big brands and high street shops. You have to take an interest and make a real effort to look for the small but beautiful things in life!
One of the early decisions we had to make was what to put in our packed lunches. Toby takes lunch into school every day and in the past this consisted of a sandwich, a snack bar, a bag of crisps, salad vegetables and fruit. But snack bars and crisps are invariably packaged in plastic – believe me, we looked high and low. We came up with various ideas to replace the snacky part of his lunch, for example homemade cheese straws and flapjacks. If I take a packed lunch to work it’s usually a salad or leftovers from the night before in a tupperware box. A lot of the time though I would just grab something from M&S on the way to work. M&S sandwiches and salads are packaged in plastic, as are most express supermarket lunch items, so this was no longer an option. Packing my own lunch suddenly became a necessity if I didn’t want to run out to a café or bistro at lunchtime. But I wasn’t enamoured with my sad, utilitarian looking tupperware boxes. A little research showed that there is a whole world of non-plastic lunch boxes out there, from Indian tiffins to Japanese bentos. I bought the modern stainless steel lunch box pictured above. This box has no polymer or silicone seal so it won’t hold liquid like salad dressing. But the clips work great and as long as you keep it upright there is no problem with spills. It came with a small box inside which is useful for nuts, raisins, cherry tomatoes etc. I bought my box in a shop in Oxford but they can be found online from various retailers. It is beautifully made and comes in different sizes and even in double and triple layers. I now really enjoy packing my lunch and don’t mind leaving it out on my desk for all to admire! Check out all the different styles of boxes at ecolunchboxes.com.