Category Archives: Bathroom and Cosmetics

ONE YEAR – ONE BAG OF PLASTIC

We have just reached our first anniversary of creating a plastic-free household. During the past year we concentrated mainly on unpackaged food, cleaning materials, toiletries and plastic-free clothing. We have collected every scrap of plastic packaging that we have accidentally, or otherwise, brought into the house. This has amounted to roughly one large bagful of plastic packaging from medical supplies, items that we bought which had hidden plastic packaging inside, presents that were given to us, and also from items that seemed unavoidable. Considering that UK households produce an average of 56kg of plastic packaging waste a year, our one bag weighing no more than a couple of pounds represents a great achievement.

In reality, our single-use plastic footprint is much larger than the household figures measured by Defra and in our case, it is bigger than the single bagful collected over the course of a year. Much of our plastic waste is created outside the home, for example in the workplace, at school, in restaurants, at the petrol station, at the hairdressers, at the gym, and by pursuing hobbies and other pastimes that take us outside the home. In the supply chain of the goods I conscientiously buy ‘unpackaged’, there are unknown quantities of plastic packaging. We are not the only ones in the dark: at a recent talk given by Tesco on food waste, which I attended in Oxford, I learned that all of the large supermarket retailers “currently don’t understand or know enough” about the plastic packaging waste in their supply chains. This means that the plastic packaging that each of us is ultimately responsible for is not just in our bins at home.

Over this past year I have read report after report, attended events, talked to many people and the story is the same everywhere. Most people think there is too much plastic in their lives and that we should recycle more and develop new materials to replace plastic. However, few talk about the one solution that is surely staring us in the face. The one solution that could prevent further environmental crises and help restore local communities is ethical consumption. Ethical consumption means that you choose only what you need, what has been paid for fairly, what has been made to last, and what has been produced sustainably without hurting people, animals or the earth. I might not be a shining example of the perfect ethical consumer yet, but I am immensely interested in becoming one. It seems to be one of the few things in life that is actually within my power!

Read More:

  • Waste and Resource Statistics_2016 by the Department for Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Plastics_Market_Situation_Report_2016  by UK based WRAP, the world leaders in helping organisations achieve greater resource efficiency. Between 2010 and 2015 in England alone, WRAP initiatives reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50 million tonnes (Mt), which is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Portugal.
  • How did I calculate 56kg of plastic packaging per UK household? I used the most up-to-date figures provided in the two reports above which are for 2014 (new data is collected every two years, so the data for 2016 should be available soon). I applied this to the total number of households in the UK in 2014 as provided by the Office for National Statistics.
  • Article on Ethical Consumerism by Tania Lewis first publishd in 2012

FAITH IN NATURE BEAUTY PRODUCTS

For some time now we have been using soap bars to replace a never-ending supply of plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bubble bath, shaving foam and so on. The soap bars we use are natural and handmade but you do end up with a lot of them and have to remember which ones to use for which purpose. I have found an interesting alternative, but bear with me on this one because it does involve a single bottle made from bioplastic (sugarcane).

Shiny Goodness, a small health food shop in nearby Nailsworth has a refill station for Faith in Nature beauty products. There is a whole row of natural products to choose from and all that shop owner Gail asks is that you bring an empty Faith in Nature bottle for refilling. For this purpose I have bought a single bottle (*gasp*) of Lavender and Geranium shampoo and decanted it into a blue glass bottle at home. I will use the Faith in Nature bottle to get shower gel, conditioner or maybe even liquid hand soap next time I’m in town. I am already collecting pretty vintage glass bottles to put these lovely products in.

Faith in Nature is a multi-award winning, UK based company that has been making natural beauty and cleaning products for 40 years. All their products are made in the UK, using only plant-based ingredients that are locally sourced wherever possible. The catch is that Faith in Nature use bioplastic (made from sugarcane instead of petroleum) as well as recycled plastic rPET bottles (no BPA though). But with refill stations there is no need to keep buying single-use plastic bottles and in my book this makes it a good alternative.

Faith in Nature:
https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/

About sugarcane bioplastics:
http://sugarcane.org/sugarcane-products/bioplastics

What you won’t find in Faith in Nature products:

  • No Genetically Modified ingredients
  • No synthetic colouring or fragrances
  • No SLES, SLS or Parabens
  • No artificial preservatives
  • No BPA plastic (they use rPET bottles wherever possible)
  • No Methylisothiazolinone (MI)
  • No animal tested products. No animal ingredients. No ingredients tested on animals (with a cut off date in accordance with BUAV (Cruelty Free International) requirements of 1988, and for their Household Cleaning range, a cut off date of 2003). All products are Vegetarian, and most are Vegan

CLEANING WITH A CLEAN CONSCIENCE

The producers of cleaning products, like the producers of toiletries and cosmetics, cash in on our unquestioned belief that we need a hundred different products to do the job properly. The Ethical Consumer Research Association says that we spend about £1billion a year in the UK on cleaning products, with supermarket shelves and kitchen cupboards dominated by products from multinational giants. The majority of products are packaged in plastic and put a burden on the environment in many ways (chemicals, palm oil, animal testing, plastic waste). I decided to go back to basics and try a simpler way of cleaning.

I found that most of the time these four basic ingredients suffice:  vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and citric acid or lemons. With just these few simple items you can clean, scour, descale and odorise your toilets, bath tubs, tiles, ovens, work surfaces, sinks, windows, shower doors, mirrors and more. They are all available to buy in shops, indoor markets or online – although it took me a while to source bicarbonate of soda in sufficient quantity and packaged in paper bags. The citric acid reacts with the alkaline bicarbonate of soda to produce a satisfying fizz and you should be careful with skin and breathing it in. But all of these ingredients are used in food production too which I find reassuring.

I have replaced plastic sponges and brushes with natural loofahs and coconut fibre scouring pads and I still have many e-cloths from my days before I ‘saw the light’ which will be replaced by cotton cloths over time.

For doing the laundry and for washing the dishes I refill the same plastic bottles at one of three local refill stations for Ecover, Ecoleaf and Bio-D. Refills are cheap and help save on buying new plastic bottles. You could just as easily use glass bottles. For now, I want to make my plastic bottles last for as long as possible before I relegate them to the recycling bin. Bio-D is an independent company that make all their products in the UK from naturally derived or plant-based ingredients. Bio-D is available in every Oxfam shop and also supermarkets and health food shops. If refilling is not an option for you, try switching to washing powder in cardboard boxes or paper bags. I also recommend concentrated organic cleaning products which can be diluted with water and can dramatically reduce the number of plastic bottles you need to buy.

I’d like to encourage you to have look at what is in your cupboard and start switching to a simpler, cheaper and healthier way of cleaning. Start with vinegar and water for your windows and mirrors and see how easy and efficient it is. Oh, and stop buying wet toilet wipes or any kind of wet wipes straight away. They are made of plastic, clog up our sewage systems, cannot be recycled and ultimately end up as microplastic!

More information and where to buy:

ZERO PLASTIC TOILET PAPER & KITCHEN TOWEL

The bog blog! If you already buy recycled toilet paper and simply want to avoid plastic packaging, there are easy alternatives. If you also want to avoid the plastic contained in recycled paper, it becomes a little more difficult. It all depends on your level of commitment to the cause and on weighing up the pros and cons:

1) Recycled paper with compostable packaging

Pros: Suma’s Ecoleaf toilet paper & kitchen towel products are made in the UK with 100% recycled paper from a blend of consumer waste and offcuts from manufacturers’ waste. The100% compostable wrap is sustainable, renewable, non-polluting, non-toxic and unbleached. So far so good.

Cons: Paper collected for recycling includes many items such as thermal receipts and magazines that contain a nasty type of plastic called BPA. There is much written about this on US websites. If you want to avoid contact with BPA and are worried about flushing plastic chemicals down the loo and ultimately into the oceans, don’t buy recycled paper products.

2) Plant- based paper in compostable packaging

Pros: Greencane paper products are made from 70% recycled sugarcane and bamboo fibre and 30% certified wood pulp. Packaging is 100% compostable including the see-through cellophane. The whole lot is sustainably sourced and is free of inks, fragrances and plastic. I like this product very much (see picture).

Cons: Greencane paper was developed by a couple from New Zealand, is produced in China and is therefore shipped a long way. It’s probably more expensive compared to the other options.

3) Homemade toilet cloths

Pros: You may think I’m kidding but just search for fabric toilet cloth on the internet and you will find that a lot of families do this. Made from old fabric, disposed of in separate bins and then carefully laundered – no packaging, no carbon footprint.

Cons: I could probably come up with something, but fabric toilet cloth brigade I salute you! Nevertheless, I’m going to stick with Greencane paper for now.

Where to buy:

Read more:

SHAMPOO SOAP BARS

One of the most enjoyable discoveries I have made since we stopped buying anything packaged in plastic are shampoo soap bars. Unpackaged and made from just a few ingredients, shampoo bars are good for your hair and scalp and so easy to switch to. They can last up to three times as long as a bottle of shampoo and you’ll be amazed at the variety and quantity available. If you are worried that your hair won’t be as soft, manageable and clean, or if you are worried about colour treated hair, dandruff or a build-up of soap in your hair, then let me put your mind at rest. Since using shampoo soap bars which are mild and often hand-made with natural essential oils, I have not needed any conditioner or restorative treatments and my hair is easy to brush and very healthy.

The ordinary bottle of shampoo on the supermarket shelf contains a concoction of 20+ chemical ingredients that have various levels of toxicity. Some strip your hair and scalp of natural oils (detergents SLS and SLES) whilst others coat your hair with silicon-based substances. The ill effects of chemical preservatives called parabens are relatively well known. Many of the ingredients are petroleum based and the by-products from the production of fragrances include dioxin and formaldehyde.

There are many organic shampoos on the market but they all seem to be bottled in plastic. It never seizes to amaze me that the purest of ingredients imaginable are nevertheless packaged in plastic. There is an anti-shampoo movement out there called ‘no poo’  whose members advocate washing hair with bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar. But I love using shampoo bars because it allows me to carry on with the daily ritual of washing my hair with something that smells good and makes lots of bubbles.

Where to buy shampoo bars:

  • Wild Sage – small family-run business near Bristol, hand crafting cold processed soaps and skin-loving balms from natural ingredients. https://www.wild-sage.co.uk/
  • One Village sell a beautiful neem and sandalwood shampoo bars suitable for hair and skin, containing no animal fats. This UK based foundation works directly with community organisations in some of the most economically stretched parts of the world since 1979: http://onevillage.org/#ixzz4TDC7GIgy http://onevillage.org/soap.htm
  • The Natural Soap is a small, ethical company based in Norfolk who sell gorgeous tropical coconut and neem shampoo bars made by a cold-process soap making method with a basic mixture of vegetable oils and fats, sodium hydroxide, water, natural nutrients and essential oils: http://www.naturalsoap.co.uk/
  • Living Naturally – vegan, homemade in the UK, organic and 100% natural, Ayurvedic but a little more expensive: http://www.soapnuts.co.uk/collections/soapnut-soap-and-shampoo/products/ayurvedic-soapnut-shampoo-bar-90g
  • Lush – warning: products contain SLS and other synthetic ingredients. Lush products are somewhat controversial as a lot of the ingredients are not as organic or green as their image and marketing would suggest. However, if you are starting out on the journey of zero-plastic packaging, Lush offer a quick and easy high street solution with some 20 different unpackaged shampoo and conditioning soap bars for different hair types. https://uk.lush.com/products/shampoo-bars

Read more:

What’s really in your shampoo?
http://www.salon.com/2009/08/13/shampoo/

5 Toxic chemicals probably found in your shampoo
http://naturalsociety.com/5-toxic-chemicals-probably-found-shampoo/

Where do all the shampoo bottles go?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/21/only-a-third-of-uk-consumer-plastic-packaging-is-recycled

The No Shampoo Method
https://www.nopoomethod.com/

Guardian article on Lush
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/12/observer-ethical-awards-2014-winners-lush

SANITARY PRODUCTS: THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES

Searching for the alternative to plastic-wrapped sanitary products I have once again come to the conclusion that the smarter, nature-friendly way is to make things yourself and not to rely on the big boys such as American conglomerate Procter and Gamble, who make the lion share of sanitary products, to do your thinking for you. But there are store-bought alternatives if you’re not up to such radical measures as making your own pads!

Most of today’s big brand sanitary products contain a cocktail of chemicals and synthetic fibres like rayon, aluminium, alcohols, fragrance additives and undisclosed ingredients. Tampons and many types of pads and liners are individually wrapped in plastic. Tampon applicators are largely made from plastic or plastic-lined card and are making a special appearance on beaches all over the world! I read that on average woman use 12,000 tampons in their lifetime.

One readily available and nature-friendly range of disposable sanitary products is Natracare. Their products are made from organic and natural materials and are free from chlorine and plastic. Natracare is sold in many supermarkets and health food shops. I have been using this brand for years.

Before disposable sanitary products were available to us, cloth rags or knitted pads were the order of the day. My mother remembers using these as a young girl in the post war years.  Reusable pads can be bought on the internet, such as these made from organic cotton: http://www.drapersorganiccotton.co.uk. My friend Anne makes reusable pads from soft and pretty looking material. They are beautifully sewn (see picture) and work very well. Anne says there are plenty of articles and demo videos on the internet with advice on purchasing materials, sewing the pads and how to launder them.

Read more:

WET SHAVING THE TRADITIONAL WAY

Would it surprise you to learn that by far the most common type of razor in the developed world is the disposable plastic razor? But even the design of the modern re-useable razor and replacement blades, and their combined packaging, require a lot of plastic. In addition there is all the plastic packaging, lids and tubes of shaving foams and gels – none of it in the least recyclable. To top it off, the blades are horrendously expensive. You can see why I thought it worthwhile to find an alternative!

Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you the old fashioned and stylish way of wet shaving with a traditional metal safety razor, shaving brush and luxurious shaving soap. Totally plastic free. You could only top this by not shaving at all (it was a tempting thought…).

I contacted www.washingandshaving.co.uk who gave me good advice on the right sort of razor for me. On their website are sections for ladies and for gentlemen with information, tutorials and an online shop. I decided on a chrome plated, open comb safety razor with a short handle (£25) which I think looks very stylish. The razor blades are cheap (about 30p), recyclable and come in small cardboard boxes. It is worth making sure you buy the right type of razor and to try out different blades. My husband already uses a shaving brush with natural bristles and a wooden shaving soap dish. The brush makes a thick, rich lather which helps the razor to glide very smoothly. I was a little scared to use my old-fashioned razor at first. I remember my father using one when I was little which was a comforting thought. After a few tries (and some minor nicks) I got the hang of it and I have now used it all summer and even travelled with it abroad. I am really happy to have tackled yet another great non-plastic alternative to an everyday item in our household!

Seven reasons to switch to a safety razor – plus shaving tutorial

TOOTHPASTE THE NATURAL WAY

I don’t know why I ever thought that the production of toothpaste was something complicated and best left to the professionals. Maybe it’s the fact that I had never used any toothpaste before that was not bought in a shop. Or maybe because there is something vaguely ‘medical’ about using toothpaste. Perhaps I am just scared that I’ll lose my teeth prematurely if I use the wrong stuff. Yet, when it comes to natural cures I am all for home remedies and have total faith in nature.

In any case, since the vast majority of toothpaste on the market is sold in plastic tubes with plastic lids, I started researching the obvious alternative: making my own. There are literally hundreds of recipes and advice on the internet for making tooth powders and tooth paste. After trying a couple of different recipes I now make this wonderfully refreshing toothpaste with bicarbonate of soda, china clay and essential oils such as peppermint, clove and fennel. Both, bicarbonate of soda and clay are ingredients that are used in common toothpastes found in shops. Essential oils add freshness and flavour and have all sorts of benefits for teeth and gums. I make smallish batches at a time which last our family for a few weeks and only take 2 minutes to prepare. This is currently my absolute favourite toothpaste recipe. I have given some to friends and we’ve taken it on holiday in small cosmetic or Kilner spice jars.

Try this super-simple Peppermint Toothpaste recipe from “Make your own Cosmetics” by Neil’s Yard. Fennel or lemon essential oils can be used instead of the peppermint if you prefer:

  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerine (cheap from Boots the chemist, in small glass bottles)
  • 3 drops of peppermint essential oil (again from Boots or health food shops)

Brushing my teeth with my own healthy and natural toothpaste and bamboo toothbrush makes me very happy in the mornings and reminds me to keep flying the flag for plastic free living throughout the day. Joy!

HOME MADE DEODORANT SPRAY

This was my first foray into the mysterious world of homemade cosmetics and I am so pleased with the result. For a long time I have been using Neal’s Yard Lemon and Coriander Deodorant but I decided to make my own now in order to avoid plastic packaging. Initially I am re-using the pretty blue Neal’s Yard bottle which does have a plastic top and atomiser, while I am looking for a glass and metal container. To my complete delight I found a book of recipes that includes the lemon and coriander deodorant and it didn’t look too difficult. I had to think long and hard about whether I would buy the essential oils needed for this recipe because they tend to come with plastic lids. In the end I decided that I would buy the essential oils because they last so long and can be used to make many other cosmetics and remedies. Also, making my own essential oils is a bit beyond me at the moment.

After getting all the ingredients together I sterilized the utensils and nervously set about making the recipe. It turned out to be so simple and absolutely gorgeous. I have been using it for some weeks now. Husband Pete commented that I smell nice and my co-workers have not moved their desks away from me – so I’ll put that down as a success!

Recipe from Make Your Own Cosmetics by Neal’s Yard Remedies:

90ml (6tbsp) witch hazel
10ml (2tsp) vegetable glycerine
10 drops of lemon essential oil
5 drops each of grapefruit, lime & palmarosa essential oil
2 drops each of clove, coriander & lavender essential oil

Mix the witch hazel and vegetable glycerine first and then add the essential oils. Store in a dark glass bottle, preferably with an atomiser, for up to 6 months. Organic essential oils are a little more expensive but there are cheaper alternatives. Althogether this costs a fraction of the store bought variety.

THE THING ABOUT TOOTHBRUSHES

I adore this video by Brush With Bamboo – a family who converted their typical American suburban home and garden into a lush self-sufficient paradise and started a bamboo toothbrush company. I want to be adopted by this family!  Their toothbrushes are entirely vegetable-based unlike the bamboo toothbrushes you typically see on Amazon or in health food shops in the UK which have Nylon bristles.

The thing about toothbrushes is that every single plastic toothbrush that has ever been made is still intact. I don’t even want to do the maths on that. I ordered two types of toothbrushes from the UK seller ecco-verde.co.uk. ‘Ecobamboo’ come with soft or hard Nylon4 bristles that are BPA free. ‘TEA Natura’ brushes are entirely made from bamboo, including the bristles. Both are packaged in plant-based material. Brilliant! You could also go for German engineering with beech wood and natural boar bristles from naturalspasupplies.co.uk which allegedly “make tooth brushing truly pleasant” (hmm…. boar bristles). There are many other types on the market to try. I have used my bamboo toothbrush for many weeks now and I really like it. I don’t know about the eco-credentials of bamboo or Nylon. I believe that Nylon takes between 30 and 40 years to break down and wood and bamboo will of course compost quite naturally.