One of the big lessons I've learnt in the last year or so has been that I can't get everything fixed all at once. Sometimes you've just got to tell yourself it's okay to take it one step at a time.
As always, January saw a lot of chat about new year resolutions and this year that included a lot of commitments to go waste free, zero plastic etc and I decided, yes, that's exactly what I was going to do! 2018 would be the year of no more plastics for me! Well of course that lasted no time at all because, well, because it's everywhere and to go plastic free can take a fair bit of planning, time, effort and in some cases, money.
I was totally downhearted; the sense of failure and the enormity of the task hit me much harder than I would have imagined. It was only when I started chatting with friends in our Plastic Unfantastic whatsapp group and confessed how difficult I had found things did I realise that of course I was finding it difficult and that was okay (well not okay for the planet but you know what I mean!).
I had approached it all wrong, I couldn't just stop all at once, I didn't have any alternatives put in place and changing everything at once was just not going to be manageable for me. Of course another challenge I had was that due to my health issues (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) it meant I also had to factor in convenience in a lot of my purchases such as pre-made meals or click and collect food shopping, all of which it turned out means more plastic!
So how does all this fit in with my mission to be Happy Barnet? (and of course to do my bit to save the planet!) Well, successfully making positive changes gives me a real boost, it helps with my self-esteem, confidence and general well-being. So as well as doing the right thing for mother nature, this was also going to help me and my mental and emotional health. One of the biggest challenges I have with dealing with ME is the feeling of not being able do things, feeling unproductive and sometimes even a little useless so any positive step forward is a real win for me and a reason to be happy.
So I've gone back to the start and looked at what I wanted to achieve. Reducing plastic was obviously one big focus but this grew into wanting to reduce chemicals in the products I use and improve my diet (probably the one I've focused on least if I'm honest, eek!). I took things, one step at a time, picking individual items I wanted to change, looking into options and selecting what I believe would be something I could maintain. No point making a change to something I just knew I couldn't stick with or where it won't work for me when my health was bad. Being realistic is not the same as being negative and whilst it is of course okay to fail (a lot of this is trial and error) I really wanted to minimise it if I could so the impact on me emotionally would be reduced.
I've still got a long way to go, I still eat pre-packaged sandwiches most days, my food shopping is in plastic bags (that's how click and collect works) and I've barely scratched the surface of my cleaning products (that's both household and toiletries). But here's some of the things I have done, I hope it perhaps inspires you to give it a go and start making small changes. It all adds up and the more we as consumers move away from plastic products the more producers will have to make changes too....also it's kind of been fun. I think doing it my way which involved trying out new things (or returning to old in some cases) and working in some crafts has made it much more enjoyable and therefore much easier to stick with!
I was quite bad for using those disposable face wipes and cotton pads but I've now stocked up on some good old fashioned faceclothes and have a nice little pretend spa-like display in my bathroom. I actually find it much nicer and it really doesn't add much to my current washing as they are just small. I do plan on crocheting some cotton scrubbies soon and think they'll be a nice addition too.
Okay so this was one I thought would be straight forward and then turned into a bit of a faff if I'm honest. I had a nice wee strainer already (quite a fancy wee thing that has a base attached so you don't dribble everywhere) but this meant using a teapot which was fine for just me but when I had a few friends round I realised my biggest tea pot only made 2.5 mugs so that was a bit rubbish, also I couldn't get the amount of loose tea right and it seemed to be everywhere! Then I bought a couple of tea infusers, problem solved right? Nope, what I hadn't realised is that some loose tea is much finer than others. It was loose tea leaf I wanted, otherwise it just poured right out of the infuser into the cup!
Anyway, I'm pretty much all sorted now and I enjoy my little teapot for one when I want to take my time and enjoy making the most of my cuppa. Find it actually quite relaxing making up the pot and pouring it out. Quite calming. And I've got the right sized loose tea for my infusers now so just need to get a big teapot for when I have a full house!
Beeswax Wraps and Glass Jars
Okay so the beeswax wraps wasn't a great success but I shall try again after comparing methods with other friends who have also given it a go. In the meantime I'm using glass jars more which, whilst it's not replacing the original packaging still means I'm not using cling film on open packets, nothing is being stored in plastic and actually as it's out on display it's easier to see my healthier foods and snacks. Those seeds would probably have been lost somewhere in my food cupboard but now I'm nibbling on them every time I pop into the kitchen.
I love my Chilly Bottle! Not only do I not use any plastic cups for water at work but I am definitely drinking much more water than before. It keeps it cold for 24 hours (hot drinks for 12) and it's so pretty I always have it with me. It's not the cheapest and there will be others out there that do the same thing so shop about, this one was a birthday gift for me! Quick note: this is not dishwasher friendly, instead wash it regularly with hot soapy water. They also recommend using a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda and water for a thorough clean.
I used to wash my hair everyday but since my ME flare up I find that too much to manage so have been washing it less often. That in itself cuts down on the need for shampoo (and plastic bottles!) but I've also been using homemade dry shampoo on the days in between when I need to give it a bit of a lift. Very simple to make:
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or corn flour ...OR for dark hair mix 2 tablespoons of arrowroot/corn flour + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 drops of your favourite essential oil (optional- I don't use any)
An old make-up brush to apply
It's a funny little recipe but I have to say it has worked well for me. My only comment is if like me you use the brunette mix, get ready for some extra chocolate cravings lol. When I finish up my current bottle of shampoo I'm planning on switching to shampoo bars which are packaging free!
As with a lot of these changes they have come about when it's been time to buy a replacement item and I have decided to look at non-plastic alternatives. I made a bit of an error with this purchase though. I bought a pack of 5 and whilst the toothbrushes themselves are bamboo and have been great to use (and look nicer as well) inside their cardboard boxes they were each individually wrapped in...you guessed it...plastic! Shall pay a bit more attention next time!
So this one seemed to freak quite a few people out and I have to admit when I unwrapped the safety razor I bought (cardboard not plastic wrapping this time!) I was quite nervous myself. It is a serious looking implement, not at all like the super sweet and cutesy pink or purple plastic disposable razors for women (which btw still cost more than the men's ones in some places!!). But I can honestly say that after the first attempt I am so glad I made the change and it really is very easy to use and gives a much better shave! The one I bought was from Bluebeards Revenge and it definitely feels like good quality.
(video to follow with some hints and tips to encourage you to give it a go!)
The Biro Bin
I write a lot of notes at work and with my colleagues working as recruiters so do they, just think about all that scribbling in interviews! We already have recycling in the office for the standard paper, plastic, cans etc but after looking into recycling for pens we now have, what we call, the biro bin. When you are finished with a disposable pen you pop it in the biro bin and when it's full we can drop it off at the nearest collection point to our office. If you want to find out more and see if there's a collection point near you, have a look at The Writing Instruments Recycling Programme, there are over 400 locations in the UK.
There's honestly so much to choose from and I'm still feel like I'm just making the easy or fun changes but hey, at least I'm making changes, right! So next on my list is going to be making deodorant and soap. My neighbour gifted me a bar of soap she had made and honestly my skin feels so soft so I'm keen to give that a go. Also hoping that might make a nice gift with the crochet scrubbies! After that I really need to start looking at food packaging, that's not going to be so straight forward for me but it's going to be an important step to take....wish me luck!