Tuesday, 28 October 2008
I shall certainly buy:
a new library card & driving license
and probably some other bits and bobs. But I can't imagine new plastic bags or packaged sandwiches or salads... and I REALLY want a cucumber, but it just seems ridiculous that they're all individually wrapped.
I'll soon post some FAQs relating to giving up plastic, so if you've any suggestions, let me know!
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Two things we couldn't get around were soya milk (veganism seems to have many other ethical benefits, though) and marshmallows (even the veggies might have mutinied if we didn't have these, though I'm sure you can get vegetarian ones somewhere). Any suggestions?
They are providing paper plates and cups. I dislike the waste of using these ever so we're just using up the ones they already have and after that I've promised to do all the washing up of the crockery (However I have a sneaking suspicion my housemate will buy more paper cups, take off the plastic, and claim they were just lying around the house somewhere).
We will buy beer in bottles or cans in cardboard boxes (I'm being lenient about the cans, as cans almost certainly have plastic in them), and wine with proper corks and foil on them (difficult to work this out before opening).
I will try to make breadsticks. This seems a bit tedious but they're a dreadful waste of money and packaging and my housemate seems to want them.
BUT what about mixers? Coke, lemonade, tonic water. It seems quite rude not to provide anything to mix your drinks with. Is there a way of making water carbonated without a soda streamer? I could certainly do with a G&T...
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
I've finally given in and signed up for paper-free billing on telephone, gas, electricity and internet. I don't really like doing this as I think I'll forget to check them but I'm paying them all by direct debit so I suppose it doesn't matter too much.
In the process of switching to internet banking and online billing - coping with some paranoia about fraud, which is terribly backward of me.
I also took the advice posted in Andrew's earlier comment on this blog: returning incorrectly addressed mail to the sender, opting out of unaddressed mail with Royal Mail, and signing up to the Mail Preference Service to stop getting unsolicited (junk) mail. This doesn't stop you getting things like your local papers or election information from the council or political parties, etc, so we will still probably receive some plastic in the post, but some is better than lots!
On a related note, I've started making cards for birthdays and other occasions a lot more than I was. You can still get postcards and some cards that don't come in plastic, but a home made card's much better! The card industry is SUCH a rip-off!
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Face wash: I'm using a great moisturising, exfoliating soap bar from Lush. It's really very good, and I have tried the whole gamut of skin care products.
Shampoo: Currently trying Lush's shampoo bar 'Squeaky Green'. It does the job - I'm not sure it's any better or worse than normal shampoo, really - but apparently you can get 100 washes out of them.
Conditioner: I've got a solid conditioner bar from Lush lined up, but haven't finished up my old stuff yet... watch this space
Anti-frizz hair stuff: Lush had a tiny metal pot of 'King of the Mods' hair gel but the larger version was in plastic. It is ok.
A friend very kindly gave me an aloe vera plant and I've been trying this as hair frizz stuff. I can't really decide what it DOES. I've tried it in dry hair and it's rather sticky and unpleasant on your hands, but not bad in your hair, but doesn't get rid of all frizz. Perhaps it's better as a holding gel on wet hair?
There's also this hair pomade: http://www.soorganic.com/product.php?productid=700 which looks good, but appears to be insanely expensive.
Concealer: no joy yet, but I haven't really been looking that hard. Not filling in my eye bags has led to several comments like, 'Have you just got out of bed?' but for some reason it's not bruising my vanity as much as I'd feared. In fact never wearing any makeup at all is extremely satisfying.
Foundation: the Clinique one that I used to be bothered to apply when I cared was in a glass bottle with a metal lid, though probably had a small plastic disk inside the lid.
Eyeliner: possibly the lack of this is also part of the 'just got out of bed' look. There must be eyeliner pencils with metal lids and no plastic on them. I think all liquid eyeliners will have a plastic bit inside. I'll look into this in case someone's interested.
Deodorant: Lush, again- it's called T'eo. I think it's brilliant (smells nice, works), but other past users I've been chatting to were distinctly underwhelmed. Perhaps they weren't putting on enough? The nice thing about this is it also doesn't contain aluminium, which has a *possible* link to cancer.
Finally: You can, of course, make your own soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc, from natural products, and I WILL post about this when I get round to it!
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
However, there are the usual issues that arise from moving into a new house. I needed an extension cable in order to plug in my computer, stereo and lamp. My office mate wanted to get rid of hers so gave it to me, but doesn't this still count as new plastic? Also, we wanted to replace all the lightbulbs with energy-saving ones. This change was definitely better for the environment but meant obtaining new plastic, although they were being given away for free...
Obviously I knew already that sometimes plastic is better/more environmental, but it's slightly annoying that it had to happen in the middle of the 3 months for which I'm giving it up.
-6 library cards
-defrizzing hair cream
So without thinking I cancelled my phone, ordering a new simcard, and cancelled the bankcard, ordering another. THESE ARE MADE OF PLASTIC. I have a spare phone I think so don't need a whole new one, but I can't do my research without a library card, can't leave the country without a passport (one likes to always have the option), need a driving license at some point (those who've had the privilege of a lift might disagree on this one). I was hoping to avoid the cards/phone issue for the three months by not needing any during that time period... Perhaps I'll see if the library can come up with an alternative for me...
The loss of deodorant means I can try the one I bought from LUSH a while ago, and the hair stuff means I can have a go at aloe vera, so that is good.
I'm just now pondering if rucksacks always have plastic on/in them somewhere.
The makeup issue is seriously stretching my vanity. This may seem ridiculous but really, how can I go outside without smothering layers of filler into my eyebags?
- the backs of luggage labels (and yes, flying anywhere doesn't make sense if you're giving up plastic for environmental reasons)
- a wristband for a museum we visited (I didn't think until it was on my wrist)
- insect repellant, borrowed from someone else, so less like using new plastic? I hadn't read Andrew's comment about sachets before I left, but I wonder if there'd be plastic in the sachet if it had foil in it? I also tried rubbing citronella candles on my skin, which had a negligible effect and smelled odd (not really like citronella), and likewise a plant whose Finnish name I can't remember that was traditionally good against mosquitos, which also didn't appear to work.
- food: I didn't eat any crisps or have yoghurt out of little pots, etc, but the bread and cheese and so on that we were given as guests had originally been wrapped in plastic. This is ok according to the rules but made me think the rules must be wrong.
I think you could actually lead a more sustainable life more easily in Finland than in the UK, although I suppose a fair amount of energy goes into their saunas. There appeared to be a great deal of food growing in the wild, though this must only be true in summer, and I managed to buy soap unwrapped and also food.
When I returned my yoghurt culture appeared to have resurrected itself, and tasted even better than before, which was suspicious, but now it is just a gloopy milky mess again.
I also tried brushing my teeth with ash!- see the original entry about toothbrushing for the full story.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Also, I'm worried my yoghurt culture may be dying (it was runnier than usual this time) and THEN I DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET ANY MORE. Unless I cheat slightly by borrowing a bit of yoghurt from someone else (packaged in plastic) to start it off again.
I had a very tedious hour yesterday morning when I nipped into town to buy a pint of milk to make yoghurt. We've cancelled the milkman as we're going away. There's one shop I know of in Lancaster that does milk in glass bottles - Single Step, where I can also get loose couscous, chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit, rice, yeast etc - but it turned out not to open until 9.30am, and I was in a rush. I therefore trailed round many other shops in the forlorn hope that one would do milk. At about the seventh shop, standing in front of the plastic bottles of milk, buying one pint and telling no one began to seem like a serious option. Eventually I decided I'd be too annoyed with myself for giving in so easily, and lurked outside Single Step until it opened.
As the title of this post suggests, I'm going to Finland tomorrow for nine days. Two problems sprang up whilst packing:
1. Suncream. I managed to find some old stuff so I don't have to worry about it for this trip, but I have no idea what one would do otherwise, apart from staying out of the sun and wearing a hat.
2. Insect repellant. Apparently there's lots of mosquitos and these ticks that can cause paralysis., and you're recommended to use a spray with 25-50% DEET. I can't find any in my house. I also find that biting insects love me and that in addition to this bites tend to swell up to ten times the size of my own head (this may be an exaggeration). Even citronella comes in glass bottles with plastic caps. There are some citronella candles in a draw downstairs. Would rubbing them all over my body have any effect?
It will also be interesting to see how difficult it is to avoid plastic when out of your normal routine, travelling about and being hosted by people. I'm taking a water bottle and sandwich container with me, but everything on a plane comes in ridiculous amounts of packaging (it's probably rather dubious to be flying anywhere whilst giving up plastic for largely environmental reasons as well). And anyway, the bottle and container are of course made of plastic. I believe you can get metal water bottles with rubber stoppers somewhere; I must look into it.
And in other news, it seems cans and tins almost always have plastic in them, which I hadn't fully taken in. This is VERY IRRITATING. What about tinned tomatoes and sweetcorn? More importantly, what about beer? I can do without the tinned food, though it is rather sad about sweetcorn, but what about beer? I would make my own, but I don't have a (plastic) bucket to brew it in. Aargh!
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Suggestion 1 (courtesy of my great aunt):
Apparently in South Africa, people (used to? do still?) use the fresh, soft grey wood ash from the fire as a sort of toothpaste, and use a green young twig which they'd chew down until it had thin splinters sticking out of it as a toothbrush.
When it stops raining enough for me to be somewhere with a wood fire, I will try this, though I have been warned to be careful not to pick a poisonous stick to chew on.
So, in Finland I cut a twig off of a birch tree (everyone recommended birch because the sap is sweet), and began chewing. It seems the particular tree they use in Africa and India is not so incredibly bitter but this wore off after about five minutes or so. I got some ash from the fire and swilled it round my mouth- it actually seemed to work fairly well and my teeth were rather clean and did not go black as anticipated. The downside was that we'd been cooking salmon in the fire so the next day my mouth tasted as though I'd brushed my teeth with salty fish-ash. However, I tried some non-salmon ash after this and it was tasteless and pleasant. I really feel this to be a viable option, although as I don't have an open fire here I'd have to have one once and then collect the ash in a jar for future use.
Baking soda. Apparently, though, this is quite strong and can wear away the enamel of your teeth so I suppose you'd have to dilute it with something else?
Suggestion 3 (courtesy of Becca Whitehead, who also sent suggestions 4, 5 and 6):
Citrus tooth powder
1 tbsp dried lemon or orange peel
6 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
Place peel in food processor, grind until it becomes a fine powder.
Add baking soda and salt, then process for a few seconds more
until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.
This looks doable from things I already have, although I'm not
sure if there's a specific way to dry citrus peel.
6 tsps baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
4 tsps glycerine
15 drops peppermint oil
Mix ingredients together thoroughly until a paste forms. Store in
an airtight jar.
This is the one I'd really like to try, but I doubt very much
whether I can get either peppermint oil or glycerine
250ml distilled or mineral water
1 tsp of fresh mint leaves
1 tsp of rosemary leaves
1 tsp of anise seeds
Boil the water, add the herbs and seeds, infuse for 20 minutes.
Cool, strain and use as a gargle/mouthwash.
4 tsps liquid glycerine
1 tsp aloe vera gel
10-15 drops Spearmint essential oil
Boil the water and vodka, add the glycerine and aloe vera
gel. Removefrom the heat, leave to cool slightly. Add
the spearmint oil, shake well. Pour into a bottle, cap tightly.
Perhaps it's possible to get vodka with a metal lid? I expect,
though, that it'd have a plastic disc in the lid. Other than
that this seems possible; I'd like to get an aloe vera plant for
hair gel purposes, and perhaps you could substitute the oil
with real spearmint.
Friday, 8 August 2008
And what about eating round a friend's house? Rose (who's doing this too; see her much more informative blog at http://plasticandphysics.blogspot.com/) and I agreed that if you're having a hot drink somewhere you go regularly, like your office (I work in two different places) or a good friend's, you ought to provide your own non-plastic-derived tea (there are a limited amount of brands which provide tea-bags in cardboard boxes with no plastic wrapping). If you're going somewhere else, it's ok to accept tea, but not really to accept biscuits that come out of a plastic box as that seems more wasteful.
But this is a very murky area. I went to a party for my grandfather's eighty-eighth birthday round my great aunt's house, and there was a delicious cold buffet almost all of which came from plastic packaging. Seeing as I couldn't refuse to eat, I ended up eating everything (it seems greed is an obstacle to a plastic-free existence), including individually wrapped cheeses.
So where can you draw the line? Should you perhaps phone ahead to inform people that you won't eat any plastic-wrapped food? This seems immensely inconvenient and ungrateful, especially to relatives who are merely, out of the kindness of their hearts, fulfilling familial duties.
Unsolicited letters with plastic windows are also leaving me stumped.
My great aunt also tried to give me a tube of toothpaste as I was staying the night. When I refused because it had a plastic lid, she exclaimed, 'You'll be the death of me with your plastic!' Instead of beating me round the head with it, as I thought she looked likely to do, she gave me two interesting tips for toothpaste and two for glue, which I shall post this weekend (it's about time I wrote something that was actually useful on here).
Thursday, 7 August 2008
First up, buying a sandwich from SPAR. These are usually wrapped in greaseproof paper and then put in a plastic bag with a price label on it. After ordering my baguette, I leaned on the counter and tried not to look like a weirdo.
[Are sticky labels plastic, though? I like to think they're paper, glue and ink. But doesn't most ink have a plastic mix in it? Ye gods, this is complicated. How on earth can you know if something has ink with or without plastic on it?]
The next place I tried was at Starbucks in Brighton. Yes, Brighton has plenty of very pleasant local cafes and I can't really explain what I was doing there, but they have a delicious cold coffee with lumps of chocolate in it and about seven gallons of whipped cream. It probably has a silly name like mochafrappacinno.
Next, train journeys. This is actually easier than it seems. I believe that on Virgin trains the only item I can buy is a Divine chocolate bar (at least it's an ethical/delicious), but in stations a few of the ridiculously overpriced baguettes are put in paper bags, as are things like cookies and croissants. Marks & Spencer's do some of their sandwiches in cardboard boxes with cornstarch windows but sadly almost everything else there is encased in swathes of plastic (their plastic forks actually come wrapped in plastic). Obviously the aim here is to plan ahead, bring my own sandwiches and stop being so dependent on convenience food.
Finally, a mention must go to Souped Up on Lancaster University campus. I took an old tupperware box along and tried the usual slightly embarrassed, 'Would you mind putting my chili in this instead?'
To my surprise, he gave me a beaming smile. 'That's a good idea!' he said. 'Did you know we give a discount to people who bring their own containers?'
What a nice bunch of human beings they are. And terribly good-looking. And, of course, the food's delicious.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Just a quickie for those pleasure-seekers who like to recycle:
Yes, that's right, you can now not only recycle your vibrator, you can get a new one half price!
Is this taking recycling too far? They don't think so! Take the LoveHoney Rabbit Amnesty Pledge and promise to dispose of all your electrical equipment 'properly at an electrical waste collection centre'.
Perhaps best not to think too hard about what happens to the old one...
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
In an even more exciting development, Emily, friend, adventuress and erstwhile travelling companion, took my yoghurt experiment one step further and made CHEESE! Yes, paneer, which I like greatly in curries, and I had a crack at it this evening:
Heat some milk to almost boiling for a good ten minutes. I used whole milk, and it was slightly on the turn, so began after this time naturally to separate into curds and whey. Apparently, this isn’t usual, so you should add some white vinegar (or lemon juice, I suppose). I didn’t have any so I put in a few drops of balsamic. This causes the curds to separate (they look like white fluffy grains floating in the liquid whey).
Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth or muslin and collect the whey (to use in other recipes) underneath. Tie the bag and leave it to drain for a couple of hours. If you’ve enough mix, the weight of it should naturally press it into a solidish cheese- I only used a pint so it’s slightly bitty.
That’s it! Cheese! Tomorrow I shall make a curry.
I also made whey biscuits with some of the whey- they have a pleasant, cheesy flavour. I’ve saved the rest to make macaroni or some such tomorrow.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
It turns out making your own yoghurt is one of the easiest things ever and it’s delicious- why’d I never do it before? Also, just after making it it’s still warm and has a slight skin on the top- a toothsome treat indeed!
All you need to do is boil some milk, let it cool to a warmish temperature, mix in a dollop of live yoghurt as a starter culture, and stick it somewhere warm for about 8 hours. I’m using a giant thermos to keep it warm which some very marvellous friends lent me, but you could also put it on top of your boiler or in some warm water.
Nb apparently if you don’t boil the milk enough, the yoghurt will be stringy. This first attempt’s a great consistency- soft curds, not runny.
I have a slight problem, however; viz or namely the starter culture. Once you’ve made one batch, you should be able to make the next batch with a bit of the old one, despite assorted dire health warnings to the contrary. However, it seems quite common for the bacteria to eventually fail and stop making yoghurt. When this happens, home yoghurt makers appear to advise buying some more live yoghurt from the shop and starting up again. Assuming I can’t find yoghurt in metal/glass, I won’t be able to buy any more. You can buy dried starter culture and stick it in the freezer, but I foolishly failed to do this before giving up plastic and I don’t know of any that’s packaged in another way.
Surely it must be possible to grow the yoghurt bacteria at home yourself? Or is this one of these things where it’s easy to mess it up and grow some carcinogenic fungus creation instead (possibly here I reveal my utter ignorance of biology)?
SOLVE MY PREDICAMENT, O READER OF THIS MISSIVE!!!
Saturday, 26 July 2008
It has begun! As of today, I am giving up all new plastic for the next three months. This blog will document the trials, tribulations and all-round FUN (hmm) relating to this endeavour. I intend to address such subjects as:
- Why? Why? Why?
- plastic-free hair care (I have relatively curly hair. The thought of going without anti-frizz serums, etc. is somewhat distressing YES I KNOW IT'S VAIN)
- (in)convenience food
- explaining this interesting choice to new housemates
- making your own yoghurt, toothpaste, etc.
and general talk of the obstacles faced when trying to live a plastic-free existence in a society that is heavily dependent on the stuff.
NB I will not be giving up:
- plastic items I already own. If these break/run out, however, I can’t get any new ones
- plastics used in life-saving medical treatment which I sincerely hope I won't need
When my friend first suggested this idea to me, I thought it sounded quite fun. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to see if it was possible. It doesn’t just mean no more plastic bags and pre-wrapped sandwiches; it makes buying things like cheese quite difficult, and most things in jars either have a plastic lid or have a plastic wrapper round the metal lid. Juice and milk have to come in glass bottles from the milkman, yoghurt has to be made at home (but even the starter culture usually comes in plastic), toothpaste always has at least a plastic cap, wooden toothbrushes seem to use animal-hair bristles, and the only non-plastic-wrapped toilet paper I know of available in Lancaster comes in a little cardboard box and is ridiculously expensive.
Most of my cleaning products are refillable (Ecover, Bio D, etc.), but my cosmetic products aren’t. A trip to LUSH unearthed non-plastic-wrapped shampoo and conditioner bars (though they wrapped the conditioner bar in plastic at the checkout whilst I wasn’t looking- aargh!) but other styling products seemed to come in plastic jars. You can get compostable bin liners but I noticed when I tipped a load of warm baked beans, etc. into one that it disintegrated rather messily. I picked up a compostable cornstarch pen at a Pass On Plastics (see below) meeting but I haven’t yet looked into buying such things in bulk.
Whilst mulling over these interesting conundrums, I decided to share the exciting news with various friends/family members.
My best friend emailed with this:
ele why can´t you just be normal like a normal person and recycle. if you do do that shite you have to not be difficult about it. body shop do a really good concealer stick. i swear by it.
My dad raised a weary hand to his brow and said, ‘Christ, why do you always have to be so difficult?’
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had lots of responses like this:
Oh Ele, Don't listen to those naysayers, i think you should prove to everyone how easy and fulfilling it is to live in a fantastic plastic free world… As for hair gel i think we've all seen theres something about Mary.
And many unusual suggestions for making my own products of various descriptions, which I plan to experiment with and post the results up here.
I’m going to post another entry with reasons for doing this and some comments on recycling, but for the time being the following might be of use:
Here you can find a lot of information about the harmful effects of our plastic waste, and download the film Hawai’i: Message in the Waves
Info on plastic and recycling, and some cautions about degradable and bio-plastics
Right, that’s enough for now… Catch me next week trying to decide whether boiled animals bones are an ethical form of glue replacement!*