Tag Archives: #sustainableliving

AD Just Add Water – Don’t have it Shipped!

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. It is classified as an AD due to containing affiliate links. If you click on any NeerSol link in this post and purchase a product or make a crowdfunding pledge, I may earn affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.

A household produces on average 11-25 kg of non-food plastic packaging waste every year, as per research by NeerSol!

I’m always keen to find more sustainable alternatives to adopt, so I was pleased to hear about NeerSol who are crowdfunding for their idea of eco cleaning tablets. Their strap line is Just Add Water – Don’t Have It Shipped which is an excellent ethos, along with their focus on reducing plastic waste. Did you know that most liquid cleaning products comprise about 80-95% water. So by purchasing tablets, you reduce the carbon footprint of shipping the solvent.

NeerSol glass cleaning tablets

They will be restocking with plenty of kits and refills in November/December after the crowdfunder, but in the meantime they sent me a free refill sample pack containing 4 of their glass cleaning tablets.  Also suitable for cleaning mirrors. This refill pack is entirely packed in paper / cardboard which you may either recycle or compost, so reducing single-use plastic waste that may potentially end up in the ocean, plus it easily fits through your letterbox. The NeerSol range also includes both all-purpose and bathroom cleaning tablets, and they are planning on introducing more products next year.

NeerSol glass cleaning tablets

Now as I just got the tablets only, I did need to find a suitable bottle that I could reuse for this but if you purchase a kit, it comes with a reuseable bottle which has a spray nozzle attachment.

The directions on the packet advise you to half fill a 350ml container with warm tap water and then drop in the tablet. Wait for the tablet to fully dissolve before filling the rest of the bottle.

As my bottle was larger than 350ml, I decided it would be best to measure it in a jug and it was a good job I did, since I had deliberately chosen a bottle with a narrow neck because I didn’t have a spray bottle. However I hadn’t factored in that the tablet was too big to fit through a narrow necked bottle.

NeerSol glass cleaning tablets

Now one thing that isn’t specified in the directions is how long it will take for the tablet to dissolve. I naively assumed this would be a couple of minutes, but it was actually over half an hour, even with stirring, by which time the water was fairly cool. So do allow yourself plenty of time. I wonder if there is any particular reason, it states to use warm water, as I’m sure it would be quicker if you could use hot or even boiling water for dissolving.

I put a little on a cloth and tested it out on an internal window. Initially I thought it was going to be a little smeary, but a bit more rubbing and it looked perfect. Also no over-powering synthetic cleaning smell. Job well done.

NeerSol glass cleaning tablets

Another big plus point of this product is that it contains no SLS, Bleach, Phosphates, Triclosan, Parabens, Ammonia or VOCs (volatile organic compounds) so reducing your family’s exposure to hazardous toxic chemicals typically found in traditional non-eco cleaning brands. Instead it is formulated of the following components – plant-based surfactant, food-grade chelating agent and preservative, 100% natural essential oil fragrance so much more enviromentally friendly for the future of our planet. Also it has not been tested on animals.

From a price point of view, you are probably aware that you tend to usually pay more for green eco products. Well NeerSol have carried out some market research which indicates that legacy brands are £1.70 – £2.50 per litre and other eco cleaning brands are £2.80 – £5 per litre. However NeerSol tablets are £1.75 per litre making them much more budget friendly on your wallet.

You can check out the NeerSol crowdfunding campaign here. They are offering some great discounts for backing them.

In summary, NeerSol cleaning tablets are a great sustainable innovative product. I’d love to hear what eco-friendly swaps you have made.

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How Green Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets?

Disclosure.  This post is a review of  a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Early last year I was introduced to Reco toothtabs, which I’ve been purchasing on subscription since reviewing them as they are my favourite plastic-free toothpaste that I’ve tried to date.

When you browse round the Reco webshop, you will see they also sell a good range of eco-friendly products from other trusted brands. But they are now about to launch their second own product and they sent me a trial pack to test out in advance for free. And no it is not a dental item this time. May I present …..

….. Reco Laundry Detergent Strips

Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets

I certainly haven’t seen or heard of anything remotely similar, so was only too happy to put these to the test.

First the packaging is cardboard and according to their website, it has already been recycled. You can either recycle or compost this. Plus it easily fits through the letterbox. No plastic bottle or capsule. Did you know that it is estimated that only about 9% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled!

Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets

Moving onto the information displayed on the packaging or website, I immediately felt confused when I read the composition. A lot of chemical sounding words plus warnings of skin irritation. This didn’t sound as eco as I hoped, although the website does say safe for the environment – OECD 301B certified biodegradable. More jargon that I don’t understand. Hopefully when they launch they can make this side of things clearer for the consumer.

My personal wishlist in this regard for an eco laundry product would be to see clear bullet points along the following lines.

Natural Ingredients
No chemicals
Cruelty free

So I would be very interested to hear which of these it ticks. I totally get its plus points over a liquid detergent as regards plastic and carbon cost. But I’m going to play devil’s advocate now and ask what are its plus points over a powder detergent, besides less cardboard? I hope its not a case of greenwashing!

Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets

The product itself comes in lightweight perforated sheets of two strips which are simple to split. The instructions indicate that one strip will be sufficient unless you live in a hard water area and your washing load is heavily soiled, in which case two strips are recommended. I have soft water here.

Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets

The directions tell you to put the strip in the back of the washing machine drum before loading your laundry. It has a strong pleasant fragrance before use and I found my laundry to have a hint of this after they had dried on the line. As regards effectiveness, it was great on general soiling like food stains but didn’t really impact long-term stains like armpits at 40 degrees, which it is fair to say is on a par with most products. And it dissolved perfectly. In fact the website indicates that they dissolve instantly in cold or hot water.

I couldn’t see any mention of whether they expected you to use them in conjunction with fabric conditioner or not. However this is a product I stopped using a couple of years ago, and in my opinion the Reco laundry sheets worked fine without the use of fabric conditioner.

Reco Laundry Detergent Sheets

So to summarise, an effective laundry product which is definitely more environmentally friendly than a liquid detergent or capsule, but I would like more clarity on the rest of its eco-credentials. In the meantime I’ll be sticking to using horse chestnuts or soap nuts for my laundry.

And if you can’t wait until the product launches to give it a try, how about seeing if you get lucky in their giveaway to win a year’s supply of Reco Laundry Detergent Strips worth £100!

I’d love to hear what is your favourite product from Reco or your suggestions for additions to the range. And don’t forget to check out the Reco blog too, where I see they are on the same wavelength as me, when it comes to cleaning with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

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Boostology here to give you and the planet a boost

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Regular followers of my blog will know that I am passionate about the environment and keen to support small independent UK businesses who are of a similar mindset to me. Boostology+ is a brand who caught my eye recently and they have now sent me a liquid hand soap in a glass bottle free to review.

Boostology liquid soap

These days where possible I buy loose bar soap as the best zero waste option. However there are plenty of reasons when only a bottle of liquid soap will do and I’m not just talking hand wash because of coronavirus. For example how about when you have been touching raw meat or someone in the household has a skin infection or for guests. Or it could just be a space issue, as the wash basin in our downstairs toilet, is too small to balance a soap dish, (see photo further down). Previously I’ve only seen liquid soap in  plastic bottles, so I was delighted to find this in an attractive amber glass bottle.

Boostology packaging

Dispatch was very prompt and the package was carefully packed with a prominent fragile warning sticker. Another label inside described how it is an eco-friendly parcel, telling the customer that the box and brown paper packing tape can be recycled together. Also that the natural starch beads are biodegradable and compostable. Thumbs up!

Boostology packaging

Looking at the glass bottle, I was very pleased to see how easy the pump mechanism is to open and close. Opening pump-operated bottles is something that has defeated me on several occasions in the past. Or it could just be me, as also trigger spray bottles seem to stop working for me about half way through most bottles, but that is a problem to resolve another day. The pump is the only component which is still plastic, so it would be great if Boostology+ could perhaps introduce a liquid soap refill option with a metal lid to the range, for returning customers to purchase.

Moving on to the soap itself, I found it lathers up well and the peppermint and eucalyptus fragrance is amazing. I love it, and big plus point, you would certainly know if your kids say they have washed their hands but haven’t actually done so. They also stock a hand sanitiser in the same flavour.

Boostology liquid soap

I’m a firm believer in using one product for multiple purposes, so I also tried this in the shower as well as for hand-washing. It is absolutely brilliant in the shower, my skin felt really moisturised. And the Boostology+ tagline of each product is designed to give you, and the planet, a boost really comes into its own, as it gave me a fab boost especially the aroma which left me feeling tingly and revitalised, ready for the day. Great feeling for well-being. The product’s name Revive is spot on in this regard. I shall be trying it on my hair next.

It is a convenient 250ml size, made of 100% natural ingredients including 25% organic ingredients, essential oils and coconut oil. Plus it is palm free, vegan, cruelty free and handmade. The coconut oil will provide antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. There are 5 symbols on the bottle for things like vegan, but I’m not sure what the second one down means, so it would be helpful to be able to match these symbols against meanings on the product webpage. Yes it is more expensive than you would pay for soap in a supermarket, but look at all its qualities that I have listed above. I would certainly be more than happy to buy this and support a small independent UK business.

Boostology liquid soap

This product in its beautiful amber glass bottle would make a lovely gift for a friend. Also a helpful nudge in showing options for reducing plastic, if they are not already taking steps in that direction. Boostology+ has lots more great gifts in the range besides natural skincare, like jewellery, candles, face masks, diffusers and essential oils. Do take a look at the full range on their website, which is extra user-friendly with its filtering options by category, occasion, speciality or values. Each of their gifts is kind to you and has minimal impact on the environment. The range encompasses natural, organic, vegan, plastic free, handmade, reusable and made in the UK. They also offer a 60 day refund policy.

Boostology liquid soap

Having tried the Revive soap, I’m now very tempted to try their volcanic potpourri in the same peppermint and eucalyptus scent, a product sold exclusively by Boostology+ I did have to swap to browsing on my phone to discover this, as the drop down list of six scents seemed to be incompatible to view on my MacBook.

Returning to the sustainability angle of the packaging, it was great to read all the eco-information on the label and see how Boostology+ have taken steps for a plastic free delivery. But as a consumer I wish to pose more questions. Does that mean home compostable or would it require an industrial composter? How about an estimate of how long the beads take to biodegrade and what conditions are required. For instance, it partially defeats the purpose if the consumer then tips those beads into a plastic bin bag, ties it up and sends it to landfill. Also stickers are not generally recyclable, as the adhesive can get caught in the recycling equipment, so are the ones used here okay in that regard or not? If not, then how about warning the consumer to remove the labels before recycling. Yes they are probably better than self-inking stamps, but is there an even better solution? Maybe the eco-friendly details could be emailed on the order confirmation and “Fragile” could be hand-written.

Boostology liquid soap

I was very pleased to read that Boostology+ plant a tree for every order placed, no matter how small the order. A good step to help tackle the climate crisis. And they recycle all their office waste and use 100% renewable electricity at their HQ (from solar, wind and hydro-electric power stations).

So to summarise, I highly recommend both this product and brand.

And I’d love to hear your top tips for eco-friendly bathroom swaps you have made.

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Eco-friendly Frugal & Green Lens Cleaner

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I am really excited to tell you about a new sustainable product which will be launching on Kickstarter towards the end of next month. This is an eco-friendly lens cleaner and I have received a 5-year supply free to review.

Frugal & Green eco-friendly lens cleaner

This brilliant concept has been thought up by two friends Marin and Alex who have named their brand Frugal & Green. And that name is so apt for a product which is not only great for the environment and planet but saves you money at the same time.

Frugal & Green eco-friendly lens cleaner

The product comprises of two bottles – a tiny one containing 50 tablets and a pocket-size empty spray bottle, which will easily fit in a handbag. You fill the spray bottle with tap-water and add a tablet, which quickly dissolves, a similar process to my daily routine with mouthwash tablets.

There is no information on the bottle regarding the ingredients of the tablets, but the website advises that the contents are eco-friendly too. Apparently a cloth is also included with the product, but as I didn’t receive one, I am unable to comment on what it is made of.

Frugal & Green eco-friendly lens cleaner

The current retail price is €24.99 which is approximately £22 , but there will be a 33% Early Bird discount on Kickstarter. That is amazing value when you consider it will last about 5 years! Frugal & Green estimate the price to be about 10 times cheaper than plastic alternatives.

Frugal & Green eco-friendly lens cleaner

My glasses get so greasy, that lens cleaner is something I tend to use at least once every day. I’ve never ever tried single-use lens wipes, but I am still concerned about my current brand of lens cleaner bottle being non-recyclable. I hate it when I have to throw something in the rubbish bin as I’m a firm believer in the mantra Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Regift, Rehome, Repurpose, Recycle, Replant, Rot. So a refillable durable glass bottle ticks all the boxes for me.

Frugal & Green eco-friendly lens cleaner

And this lens cleaner is suitable for other types of lenses as well as your spectacles, like cameras and binoculars. I also tried it out on my phone screen, laptop and some dvds and cds and found it great for all those too. That might be a particular bonus for those who only wear glasses occasionally and are thinking, do I really need a 5 year supply of lens cleaner? Yes I’m thinking back to when I wore contact lenses, before varifocals became a necessity for me.

I was also pleased to observe that sustainability had been considered with regards to the packaging. The glass bottles had been wrapped in old newspaper and the accompanying note looked like it was written on recycled paper.

All in all an easy way to help try to save the future of the planet, which regular readers of my blog will be aware is very important to me, from my series of posts on reducing waste.

I discovered this brand via the Ethical Influencers network. And as I mentioned at the beginning of my blog post, their lens cleaner will be launching on Kickstarter next month. You may sign up to their newsletter to be notified of the product launch here.

I highly recommend this product. Plus I’ll be back with a giveaway after the Kickstarter launch.

And I’d love to hear your top tips for eco-friendly bathroom swaps you have made.

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Have you heard of Tŷ Môr saving the planet one wipe at a time?

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product that I helped to crowdfund.  All opinions are my own.

You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Toilet paper is a good example.

I am passionate about the environment and sustainability, so whenever I see a Crowdfunder for a small business in this area, I do my best to support them. Tŷ Môr was one that caught my eye last year. They are a natural fibre toilet paper which is 100% environmentally friendly made by ShearWater Eco™. (The website is currently being updated, but should be available within a couple of weeks).

Tŷ Môr natural toilet paper

I had to wait a while to receive the 48 rolls that I crowdfunded, due to technical issues that needed resolving in their supply chain, but they did supply smaller quantities in the interim. However I now have a cupboard full of environmentally friendly toilet paper. This many rolls are going to last a while. And no plastic in sight, just like how I remember we used to be able to purchase loo roll.

The Tŷ Môr toilet paper is tree less, plastic free, 30m per roll, is a natural colour with no bleaching agents, no dyes, no harmful chemicals and no BPA. It is 100% biodegradable, recyclable, and carbon positive. And it is made from sustainably sourced, fast-growing plant fibre materials such as rattan, bamboo, hemp and sisal. No trees at all. In fact, planting bamboo has been proven to be great for rejuvenating poor soil.

ShearWater Eco™ have recently received a grant from the Development Bank of Wales to invest in their dream of growing and manufacturing their toilet paper in the UK. Currently it is shipped from overseas.

Unless you’ve gone the whole hog to use washable cloths instead, toilet paper is an essential that we all need to buy regularly. So it makes perfect sense to choose the most environmentally friendly type possible. Do you really need white or coloured toilet paper? Stop and think about this, it doesn’t grow white or coloured. Bleach or dye must have been used. Even some of the other supposedly eco brands are not quite as eco as they claim.

Plus it is priced very competitively, especially as they are not charging VAT at present, so currently £24.99 for 48 rolls. And for those of you, who don’t have room to store 48 loo rolls, it also comes in packs of 4, 9 or 16. They are expanding their stockists but you can buy it directly from their online store. It would be fabulous to see these products in my local zero waste store, so I’ve let Tŷ Môr know the contact details. Plus they even sell gift cards. What a good gift idea for the person who has everything!

Also I have an offer to pass on to my readers – 10% off your order at Tŷ Môr with discount code: W935IZYJOFMY.

Ty Mor natural toilet paper

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition courtesy of ShearWater Eco™ to giveaway a pack of 4 toilet rolls each to 2 lucky winners.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your top tips for an eco swap.

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KIND2 you, KIND2 the planet

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Saving the planet doesn’t have to mean bad hair! I recently discovered the natural plastic-free haircare brand KIND2 via the Ethical Influencers network. KIND2 is a small, independent, ethical haircare company founded by Sue Campbell, because she wanted to make a difference for the planet.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

I received a KIND2 shampoo bar and a conditioner bar free to review. There are two shampoo bars in the range and I chose to test out the sensitive one as my scalp is very prone to dandruff. Their other shampoo bar is a hydrating one, so targeted at dry, curly and coloured hair.

Dispatch was quick and the packaging was also plastic free, even down to using paper tape. I hate trying to remove sellotape prior to recycling so thumbs up for that.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

KIND2 products are vegan and free from plastic, soap, sulphates, silicones and parabens. They are made in the UK, supporting local industry and lowering their carbon footprint. Plus you’ll see on their website, that all their bars have won awards.

Now I started using shampoo bars over 18 months ago, but I have to say it has been rather hit and miss as to which ones I like and those I don’t. I particularly hate it when one leaves a residue  in my hair which won’t rinse out and then causes extra tangles when combing.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

However this is my first time using a conditioner bar. Initially I still had open bottles of conditioner left to use up when I first made the swap to shampoo bars. I did donate any unopened bottles to The Hygiene Bank but no point in throwing away what you already have. And since then, I have been making my own homemade zero waste apple cider vinegar from apple scraps as a hair rinse. Something else that I must get round to writing a blog post about.

So putting the KIND2 bars to the test. I made sure my hair was fully wet first, before wetting the shampoo bar and rubbing it into my roots and through my hair. It lathered reasonably well, but note we do have soft water here, so I can’t comment on how it would be in hard water. My hair is thick, but I found it easy to wash through and it rinsed out well too without leaving residue. No need for a second wash.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

I then followed it up with the same procedure using the conditioner bar. This smelt lovely with a subtle aroma, whilst the shampoo bar was fragrance free. I was able to easily comb my hair afterwards with no tangles. And as it was a lovely summer’s day, I went out to the garden and allowed my hair to dry naturally. The result was soft and shiny, so I am very pleased.

I am sold on these products and not just because they are plastic free, including the box. I am putting it down to them also being soap free. Read this interesting article about pH balance on their website.

I found I could easily go well over a week between hair washes, with my hair still looking clean and glossy, which was unheard of before I swapped to shampoo bars. The box indicates that one 80g shampoo bar equates to two 250ml bottles, which should be around 60 washes. So great value for money as well as for the environment at £12.50 for a bar. Similarly the conditioner bar should last for 80 washes. Wow that is just 1g per wash.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

These numbers do depend on you allowing the bars to dry out between washes. When I first swapped to a shampoo bar, I didn’t have a spare soap dish for it, so to keep it dry, I took a Heath Robinson approach. I put elastic bands round the bottom half of a travel soap holder which I already had and balanced the shampoo bar on this. This works fine, but I do love the look of all the sustainable soap dishes that KIND2 also sell. They have ceramic, enamel and wood soap dishes available.

plasticfree KIND2 shampoo bars

And just to let the gents know that the box says that the shampoo bar is great as a beard wash too. Also the ingredients in KIND2 shampoo bars and conditioner bars should be gentle enough for children of 5 years and over. So suitable for all the family.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware from my series of posts on reducing waste that I am doing my best to reduce my use of plastic. So KIND2 scores full marks from me on this front and I am more than happy to recommend this brand. If you haven’t tried a shampoo bar yet, then give it a whirl. Plus if you sign up to the KIND2 newsletter, you’ll get a 10% discount off your first order, along with other special offers.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition courtesy of KIND2 to giveaway a shampoo bar and a conditioner bar to one lucky winner.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear what is your favourite product from KIND2 or your suggestions for additions to the range. And how about sharing your top tips for eco-friendly bathroom swaps you have made.

The only thing now for me still to sort out is a post-lockdown hair cut. However I’ve heard several non-eco friendly tales of disposable towels and gowns. So I am torn between wanting a haircut, but not with lots of single use plastic involved. What has anyone else’s experience been?

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Ditch the Tube with Reco Ecofriendly Toothtabs

Disclosure.  This post is a review of  a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Time to talk about another eco product. I’ve received a packet of 62 toothtabs from Reco, free to review, enough for a whole month. Their mantra is #SingleUseSucks, Ditch the Tube, Zero Paste, Zero Waste which sounds fab to me.

Reco ecofriendly toothtabs

Regular followers of my blog will know that I am passionate about the environment and sustainability and may have seen, via my series of posts about my own personal journey towards zero waste, that I have been trying to avoid toothpaste tubes. These are notoriously hard to recycle, being mixed materials made from a combination of plastic and aluminium, so most tend to end up in the rubbish bin. Terracycle have introduced a recycling scheme but there is no collection point locally.

I have tried a few types of plastic-free toothpaste now, so was very interested to see how these would compare. Reco toothtabs are toothpaste tablets which contain fluoride. My dentist has stressed that fluoride is essential, so this is a definite plus point for me, since some brands of plastic-free toothpaste that I have tried don’t have fluoride. At my age, I’m sure my enamel is wearing thinner, so thumbs up for the fluoride to help with my dentall health and oral hygiene.

So let me tell you how to use the toothtabs. Pop one tablet into your mouth. Chew it to form a paste. Wet your toothbrush under the tap and then brush your teeth as normal. Simple.

Reco ecofriendly toothtabs

I was pleased with the minty taste, as some others that I’ve tried haven’t been too great in the taste department. This is definitely my joint favourite along with one that I have purchased from my local zero waste store. However I must mention that the packet indicates they are not recommended for children.

Reco state that their toothtabs are free of artificial preservatives and stabilisers normally found in toothpaste. See their website, for full details on each ingredient. They are also vegan and cruelty free.

Also I am pleased to report that the packaging is 100% recyclable, biodegradable and home compostable. The toothtabs come in small paper bags, with a label that Reco say has been printed on 100% recycled waste paper. And Reco also say that the mailing envelopes are made purely from sustainably sourced paper.

I’ve cut out flying myself, but these toothtabs are ideal for your hand luggage when going through airport security. Dry, so no need to be separated into a see-through plastic bag and you only have to pack the number you need for your trip.

I’ve popped mine in a handy tin that I already had, but if you subscribe to their regular 3 month delivery service, they will throw in a storage tin for free, plus you get a 5% discount. The delivery will easily fit through your letterbox, and you can can pause or cancel your subscription at any time.

Reco ecofriendly toothtabs

Plus I have a special offer to share with my readers of a 31 day trial pack of toothtabs for £3 (including free delivery) so that you can try them out for yourselves. Just visit this page for a toothtab trial pack.

And I’ve been browsing around the Reco website and have seen that they sell other brands that I already buy. There is Kitenest who I helped crowdfund and Pokito who I bought a collapsible cup for my son to keep in his school blazer pocket. And there is rCup, which we used to have until my other half accidentally left it behind after a race. I’ve got my eye on some of their other products too like the soaps, natural deodorant and vegetable loofah scrubber.

I’d love to hear what is your favourite product from Reco or your suggestions for additions to the range. And don’t forget to check out the Reco blog too where you can even discover 37 Hacks for an Old Used Toothbrush.

So join Reco and me in the mission to help our society switch from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one!

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Plastic Free Communities – reducing single-use plastic in your local community

Plastic Free Communities - Surfers Against Sewage
My town has signed up to the Plastic Free Communities initiative run by Surfers Against Sewage, aimed at reducing single-use plastic in our local community. This is something that I am very passionate about, so I offered to join the committee. And I thought I’d use this post to brainstorm some ideas to suggest.

Plastic free gardening
Our group has already identified that we could speak to garden centres and nurseries regarding recycling flower pots, sale of non-plastic insulation and bulk soil and compost. I’ve just discovered only this week that we have a Gardener’s Association locally, so I haven’t been to see if they already do any of these, but I certainly plan to join. Also we could make a list of local stables / farms offering plastic-free manure.

Ecobricks
Ecobricks
For those of you who haven’t heard of ecobricks, they are plastic bottles that you fill with small pieces of clean dry plastic in order to make a building block. I have made a few myself, but although there are plenty of community projects collecting them across the country, we have nothing locally. I have a local school in mind who may be interested, although I do know that they won’t wish to promote needless purchases of plastic bottles.

School stationery
It is great that the library take old pens, but the product that I am accumulating which I don’t know what to do with, is old Pritt-sticks. My children are asked to take these to school and they go through a tube so quickly, sticking worksheets etc into their books. Surely there must be a more eco-friendly solution. And don’t get me onto the topic of sticky-back plastic. Some teachers, but luckily not so many, still ask the children to cover their exercise books with this. How about wrapping paper instead?

Packshare
Most of us end up with packaging that we don’t need. I’m using pieces of bubble wrap to insulate my greenhouse and I have given some of the large paper bags that milk&more deliver, to a local shop to use as bin liners. But I came across a scheme called Packshare which originated in Cornwall, whose aim is for you to find local businesses who can reuse your packaging. They are hoping to get a good presence nationwide, but when I keyed in my postcode, the nearest businesses are about 20 miles away. It would be great to promote this to local businesses. Hopefully it can take off to the same extent as the water bottle refill scheme.

Pallet packaging
One day when I had popped into our local supermarket, I observed one of the staff wrapping an empty pallet trolley with a huge roll of plastic like clingfilm, going round and round with layers of single-use plastic. Why? And talking of supermarkets, some have collection points for plastic bags. Perhaps we could ask ours to consider doing this or even organise a mass unwrap event.

Reusable bags
Bags
Not everybody unfortunately, but it is now much more widespread that people will bring their own shopping bags. However not many also carry their own produce bags and boxes. Some of the local shops are more on board than others at reducing plastic, but I have a few ideas in this area. Sewing or crochet skills could be taught to disabled with learning difficulties to make cloth, net and mesh produce and shopping bags, which can be sold through their own shop and other local shops. Of course, this doesn’t have to be limited to bags, they could also learn to make things to replace other single-use products like scrubbies and pads.
Notices to be displayed in local shops saying that you are welcome to bring your own boxes. And where they do wrap in paper like at the butchers, I scratch my head sometimes as to whether it is purely paper or a plastic backed paper. How should I dispose of it? With food waste? Or can it be washed and then go in recycling or torn up for home composting? Again notices would help.

Ice Cream
I find that large plastic ice cream boxes are ideal for reuse. We are lucky to have a local dairy farm who make their own ice cream, which is sold locally in either individual or 500ml sizes, but apart from the plastic lids, they appear to be mixed material. However they do also make a 2l size in a plastic box, which they used to call family size on their website. When I contacted them last year, they said this was usually only sold to pubs but I did arrange an appointment to buy some directly from the dairy. Also someone mentioned at our last meeting, that the plastic lids can be returned to the dairy for reuse, but I can see no mention of this on their website. So definitely some scope for follow-ups here.

Hairdressers
The hairdresser is traditionally not very sustainable. This is not just on the plastic front, but energy and water usage too. However some hairdressers are starting to address sustainability better. Perhaps we could promote this, starting by suggesting refill hair products for both the salon and to sell to customers.

Plastic free butter
Deli
Sadly it is many years ago since the local deli closed down, but I have discovered plastic-free butter elsewhere. Perhaps one of our local shops, maybe the butcher who sells a small selection of cheese, could be persuaded to stock this.

Balloons and Balloon Sticks
At the local Christmas shopping evening I saw kids with the estate agent branded balloons on balloon sticks, one of which blew away but luckily the dad caught it. Balloons can be lethal to wildlife. So we may wish to suggest that the estate agent reconsider their promotional material.

Toothpaste
I have made the swap to toothpaste and mouthwash tablets and bamboo toothbrushes, as I am sure we have all heard that every toothbrush we have used will be around, long after we die. However TerraCycle do have a recycling scheme for toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, but none locally. I have tried to ask my dentist to enrol (in a nearby town) and she did promise to raise it with their head-office. But worth pursuing with other more local dental practices too. We do have a few of the other TerraCycle schemes locally, but this could be broadened further to encompass items like cleaning product packaging, biscuit and sweet wrappers

As always I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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Small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas

I know I started off the year with good intentions to keep my blog updated with all the progress I have been making towards reducing plastic, however life got in the way, but yes I’m still continuing down the sustainability path. A light bulb moment for me was that it is not only about reducing plastic. So now I’m trying to focus on the bigger picture of zero waste, carbon footprint, seasonal products and supporting local independent businesses in addition to plastic. But I find it can be hard to prioritise any one of these aspects over the others in certain situations. And I’m continually keeping in mind the mantra Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Regift, Rehome, Repurpose, Recycle, Replant, Rot.

Looking back, the last news I gave you on this topic was about our fab eco holiday in the summer. Since then I’ve joined local groups, been on workshops and things have been ticking along in the garden. I will try to find time for more blog updates next year, but for now I wanted to focus on Christmas.

At the beginning of November, the boys and I had a good sort through our 3 boxfuls of Christmas decorations, reducing what we were going to keep by about half. The remainder was sorted for charity donations, or repurposing components for crafting, recycling or eco-bricks, with minimal ending up in the waste bin. Around the same time, we sent 3 bagfuls of unused items (toys, stationery, toiletries) to school for including in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. A great way to do it, compared to preparing an individual shoebox each like we’ve done previously, when I’ve usually ended up buying some items like hats, scarves and gloves cheaply at somewhere like Poundland, since those probably weren’t made very sustainably.

So throughout the year I have been popping into charity shops, sometimes with a boxful to donate, but often just for a browse. And I’ve found plenty of gifts to put aside for the boys, especially including the themes of Dr Who, Star Wars or Marvel as I knew those would feature on their Christmas lists.

For my other half, I’ve chosen an experience, topped up with a few items from the charity shops and edible gifts. And I’ve made a large hamper for my parents of which all the contents are either handmade locally or by me. So I’ve made a couple of soup-in-a-jar mixes, turmeric latte and zero waste candied peel. See below for the recipes.

candied peel

Looking at the Amazon wish lists of other relatives, I’ve managed to swerve Amazon entirely and bought requested gifts either on the high street or vouchers. Someone else gets a membership. Another gets products I chose for her at a Tropic fundraising party, so supporting both one friend’s fundraising and another friend’s small business. And I helped the boys select edible gifts handmade by disabled people in our local community.

I had to think hard about buying for someone in Canada. Previously I would have just resorted to Amazon, but this year I found Wychbury Ave, a small ethical local business who handcraft soaps and body products. Plus bonus, the owner was prepared to hand-deliver my order.

As regards wrapping and cards, this was more of a bugbear, as I already possess lots of shiny foil-paper, silver tape and glittery cards which I obviously want to use up rather than dispose of, but I can see it lasting quite a while yet. And I did save some paper from last Christmas too. I have been sending about half of my cards as e-cards for the last few years anyhow, but is this anymore eco, when you consider the carbon footprint of the servers? I also handmade a few cards, but didn’t have time for many, although I have always made my own gift tags. So it is probably going to be a number of years before this area hits my eco target. Similarly we have some crackers leftover from last year. I did better earlier in the year with birthday wrapping, using pages from our local newsletter tied only with ribbon. But at least nothing new was purchased. And any gifts that have arrived by post have been left in their packaging.

There does still seem to be a larger pile of gifts than I had hoped, but at least not many have my name on them. I’m particularly pleased that some of the family have made a donation at my request to their local food bank instead of getting me a gift.

Christmas gifts

Son2 is particularly eco-conscious, and bless him, this is what he wrote as a ps at the end of his letter to Santa – “Please try not to use wrapping paper since it may end up becoming plastic pollution“. So his presents will be loose inside a pillowcase, although I’ve tried to preserve some element of surprise by hiding the more fun items inside the clothing gifts.

And onto the catering. I’ve bought much less food. Nothing for tea, no gammon and wide selection of buffet treats. If anyone is still hungry, they can have a turkey sandwich. Yes we are having turkey for lunch, but it has been hand-reared free range locally by my friend on her smallholding. Fresh vegetables are from our local greengrocer, whilst frozen peas, sweetcorn and yorkshire puddings have been purchased packaging-free. Also no starters. And this year for the first time, we are passing on the Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, since only half the family like them anyhow, plus I am trying to reduce my sugar intake. No Yule log either. We do still have mince pies which I made using mincemeat that was handmade by disabled people in our local community.

Mince pies

We’ve had our artificial Christmas tree for many years, but when I got it out just over a week ago, I realised one of the pieces had broken when it was being taken down last year. I’ve managed to repair it, so hopefully the tree will last us at least a few more years. However only two out of four colours of our LED lights seem to now be working and I’ve discovered they sadly don’t have replaceable bulbs like our previous set did, but we are making do. So much for me stating that they would last for 50,000 hours use, when I reviewed them 6 years ago. But I’ve noticed that none of us are particularly bothered about switching the Christmas lights on, so saving energy. We’ve only ever had one strings of lights at a time, unlike some houses which seem to go overboard on both the amount of lighting and how soon it is up, in some cases even as early as November, but maybe Christmas lights will become a thing of the past in our household.

Christmas wreath

On the more natural decorative front, I cut a few sprigs of holly, ivy and pine from the garden and wove them around my willow wreath for a front door decoration. It looks a bit lopsided, but I am still pleased with it. I made the wreath early last month after volunteering to help with the willow harvest.

Making a willow wreath

And now to share my recipes. Firstly the zero-waste candied peel. I’ve been saving all types of citrus peel in the freezer, along with other bags of bread crumbs, raw vegetable scraps for stock, apple cores and vegetable peelings. My initial plan was to make my own candied peel that I could either use in cake-making or as a sweet treat. However I wished to avoid sugar, so I have used honey in my recipe instead. But as we eat a lot of citrus fruit, I seemed to have a non-ending supply of citrus peel, so the obvious idea was to gift some of the candied peel. For an additional touch, you could also dip the candied peel in chocolate.


Candied Peel

Candied Peel

Ingredients

300g mixed citrus peel (orange, lemon and grapefruit)
250g honey
water

Method

Defrost the peels.
Remove excess pith and cut into narrow strips.
Place in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil.
Boil for 5 minutes, then drain off the water.
Replace with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
This time simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the water into a jug.
Pour 400ml of the strained water back into the saucepan.
Stir in the honey and strips of peel.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.
Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup.
Allow to cool.
Strain off the syrup, (you can store this in the refrigerator to make cordial drinks).
Place sheets of greaseproof paper onto all your cooling racks.
Spread out the peels in a single layer on the paper.
Place the cooling racks in your airing cupboard for 2-3 days until the peels are dry.
Store the candied peels in airtight sterilised jars.
(Optionally dip in melted chocolate).
Enjoy.

Candied Peel

Secondly turmeric latte, a tasty drink. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so this is a great gift for the health benefits.


Turmeric Latte

Turmeric Latte

Ingredients

250g skimmed milk powder
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of black pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients together.
Store in an airtight sterilised jar.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Mix 25g into a mug of cold water.
Heat in microwave.
Enjoy.

And finally the soups in a jar. I did two variants, mild coconut curry soup and minestrone soup, but there are so many more possibilities for this. Gift them along with a tin of coconut milk or chopped tomatoes respectively.


Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

125g green lentils
125g red lentils
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp dried onion
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin coconut milk

Method

Mix together the dried onions, curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the green lentils.
Then the red lentils.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of coconut milk.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.
Enjoy.


Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

75g barley
75g red lentils
75g gomitini pasta
1 tbsp dried onion
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 garlic powder
Pinch of basil
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of marjoram
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Method

Mix together the dried onions, mustard powder, garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the barley.
Then the red lentils.
Then the pasta.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of chopped tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 45-50 minutes until barley is tender.
Enjoy.

So these are my first small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas. I am sure there is loads more I could do, so I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips for Christmas please.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas.

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An eco Christmas Gift Guide ad

Disclosure.  This post mentions products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.
This post is classed as an advert because I have been requested to include a specific URL

It is getting to that time of year to start thinking about Christmas presents, so I would like to share some of my gift guide ideas. Regular readers will know that I’ve tried to adopt a much more sustainable philosophy this year, so I’ve been keeping an eye out whenever I’ve been in the charity shops. I’ve got quite a few toys, games and books as stocking fillers for the boys. Some of them even look brand new. Of course I still plan to get them at least one thing that they each specifically request.

Sous Chef salt plate

However you can also get some nice new sustainable gifts and when I was browsing the cookware section of the Sous Chef website, I discovered some great finds, which they kindly sent me for free. First up is this fab Himalayan salt plate. It comes in two sizes and this is the smaller 21cm x 10 cm. Salt is naturally antibacterial, so there is no need to use soap to clean the plate. Just wipe with a damp cloth, and dry well before storing. You can heat the plate in the oven or chill it in the freezer, and it will season the food you are serving on it. Just imagine frying scallops on it or using it to serve your caramel ice cream. What a wow factor at the table!

Sous Chef grow your own sunflowers and kale

And for the gardener in your life, there is a great range of grow your own products. I chose these grow in the bag Towering Sunflowers and Gigantically Good Dinosaur Kale (cavolo nero). The instructions on the reverse indicate that you start the seeds off in the natural biodegradable jute bag, then transplant the whole thing outside to mature. See I’m also thinking about the bees with the sunflowers, as I had been contemplating making my own bee bombs.

Sous Chef grow your own sunflowers and kale

I’m planning to make some homemade foodie gifts for the extended family, so the final two items I chose from the cookware range are early Xmas gifts to myself to assist in that process. There is a large Cook’s Muslin Square 93cm x 100cm that I’m hoping to use to strain jellies and steam Christmas puddings. Two things I’ve never tried previously, but I can remember as a child watching my mum tie her jelly bag onto a kitchen drawer handle overnight when making crab apple jelly. You never know, I might even try making my own cheese with it. Muslin is a natural fabric which can be washed and reused time after time.

Sous Chef Cooks Muslin

And after any cooking, there is the cleaning afterwards, which is where this copper washing up sponge will come in very handy. It is made by Andrée Jardin, a traditional French family business where everything is produced in small batches, using artisanal techniques. The company’s motto is Simplicity, Quality, Sustainability.

Sous Chef copper sponge

Do take a look at the Sous Chef site here https://www.souschef.co.uk/collections/cookware. There are so many more fabulous items. I’ve got my eye on the dehydrator. It would be great to make my homemade fruit snacks and vegetable crisps, avoiding all the plastic packaging that they tend to be sold in. The trays are stainless steel, so no need to worry about toxins from plastic either.

My other big sustainable gift suggestion is to give someone a memory. I’m thinking of paying the entry fee for a swimming race for my partner, but it could be buying a membership of say Woodland Trust or adopting an endangered animal via WWF or tickets to an event. The list is endless.

I’d love to hear what you would like to give or receive for Christmas. I’m especially looking forward to hearing about sustainable ideas.

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