Category Archives: On the go

STYLISH ALTERNATIVE TO PLASTIC STRAWS

It’s a must-do but is so easy to forget: always refuse plastic drink straws. If you’re unaware of the environmental impact caused by the trillions of single-use plastic drink straws that are discarded after one use and if you have missed the fantastic campaigns such as One Less Straw and others, then please have a look at the links below. A fun and stylish alternative are straws made from metal, bamboo, paper, glass or even silicone. They are easy to take with you when out and about with friends or on holiday. You can have a selection at home to show off your non-plastic credentials. The ones I bought (from local Stroud Valleys Project shop) are stainless steel and come with a dinky little brush for cleaning. I see that they are also available on Amazon from about £5 for 4 straws. Have a great summer everyone!

More Info:

  • Plastic Pollution Coalition – 500 million plastic straws per day are discarded in the US alone
  • One Less Straw – a campaign started in 2009 by a couple of kids. It’s been going round the world and is a sizable non-profit organisation now. On their website are resources and information. If you are brave enough to watch it, have a look at the video about a giant sea turtle having an entire plastic straw removed from its body through the nostril by some brave rescuers. You will never use a plastic straw ever again!
  • Dive Planit – on why plastic straws seriously suck
  • Be Straw Free campaign
  • Netivist campaign

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

ABEEGO WRAP INSTEAD OF CLING FILM

Imagine a material for wrapping food that is made entirely from natural materials and is washable, re-useable, multi-purpose and smells deliciously of beeswax… If you have never come across Abeego, do check out the lovely couple who invented it and the beautiful Abeego website. Widely available in the UK and worldwide, I have seen it in farm shops, kitchen shops, health food shops, even gift shops, as well as online. You can buy small, medium and large sheets to wrap around anything except raw meat. It keeps food fresh naturally and is great for wrapping bread and cheese for example, or for covering left-overs in the fridge. The sheets are pliable but fairly stiff from the beeswax so they stay in place where you’ve folded them. They are water repelling and don’t seem to take on the smell of the food. I adore this wrap because it is natural, beautiful and so practical. It is a bit of an investment if you’re used to buying cling film. Mine have lasted really well since I bought them a few months ago and I can’t see any use for cling film now. I think this is another great win for living without plastic!

Where to buy Abeego in the UK: http://www.asliceofgreen.co.uk/food-wraps-and-bags/

REFILL BRISTOL – A BRILLIANT IDEA

Talking to my friend Sarah who has a farmers market food stall that only uses eco-friendly catering vegware (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall take note!) I mentioned an idea of mine for Stroud shops and market stalls to display a prominent and recognisable sticker/logo to indicate that customers are welcome to bring their own bags and containers for refill. I thought of this because it can be daunting to repeatedly ask at the supermarkets and shops if they would mind putting the meat/cheese/whatever straight into your own containers instead of the shop plastic bags. A sticker or logo outside the shop would not only spread the message but also make a lot of customers loyal to the shop I think. The shop could even sell their own re-useale containers, much like they do with bags-for-life for example.

Just this morning then, my mother who lives in Bristol sent me an article about Refill Bristol, a practical campaign to make Bristol a refillable city: “Filling up your water bottle for free from one of our 200 Refill stations is an everyday thing. The aim is to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and bottle tops ending up in our oceans, whilst keeping you healthy, hydrated and saving you money at the same time! Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses display a round, blue sticker in their window, inviting thirsty passers-by to come on in and fill up their bottle – for free. Refill Bristol was a Bristol 2015 European Green Capital project delivered by City to Sea, a local CIC dedicated to stemming the tide of plastic to the oceans” Read more

Hallelujah!

LUNCH BOX

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.