Our last blog post on sustainability in 2018 was received well and a few people said they’d started to change their habits as a result (at least five people started ordering the traditional reusable glass bottles from Milk & More…no we’re not on commission!). I’m even going to start ordering their juice, also in glass bottles, to cut out more plastic.
I predict that plastic will be this year’s ‘sugar’. People will start to see it as evil and hopefully, really pressure companies to stop using it unnecessarily.
There have been loads of articles recently on the ‘plastic soup’ and how it is harming our sealife and entering back into our food chain.
I was devastated to realise that even though I’ve been recycling religiously for decades, we’d taken somewhat for granted that all our plastics were recyclable. We were wrong.
So the last couple of weeks have been about scrutinising and swapping out some of our favourite brands for other, more sustainable choices. I’ve been tweeting Ocado and Waitrose about this and leaving packaging reviews on their website.
Those plastic Lurpak tubs? Non-recyclable, and now swapped out for a traditional butter stick – we chose Kerrygold as they use milk from grass-fed cows and a recyclable wrapper.
Lord help me, I only popped out for a birthday present but I also came back with this gorgeous limited-edition Oxo tin (I’m a designer so I’m a sucker for pretty packaging) so I’m now going to swap brands* from my Knorr plastic/foil stock jelly pots to these traditional foil-wrapped cubes. *Now if that’s not a metaphor for what I do for my clients I don’t know what is!
None of my Nivea products had any recycling information, so nervously, I went online and (phew!) they are in 100% recyclable packaging (as are our shampoo/conditioners and shower gels). Why didn’t they say?!
However, I’m now scrutinising every product I buy and making switches where I can, gradually moving towards more sustainable products too. One of my friends, Lynne, suggested using going back to soap bars, which of course have even less packaging, so that may be my next swap.
I still don’t know why most supermarkets continue with their non-recyclable plastic shrink-wrap on food. I’m going to try and start shopping at the greengrocer and butcher (although our meat consumption has gone down too), but the convenience of online shopping with two young kids, a business and home to run is a hard habit to break! I’ll continue to nag the supermarkets and if enough of us make some noise perhaps they’ll listen. M&S have some BIG plans a-coming. Let’s hope others follow suit – and soon.
Still, one step at a time – I’ve managed to get hubby to take a fabric bag out when he pops to the off-licence now too! 🙂
Other recent #smallchanges…
I’ve switched to cotton buds with paper ‘sticks’ rather than the plastic ones…buy them here …
…a couple of bars I went to last week were now using paper straws, – and now I’ve become aware of the damage they can cause I am never buying the plastic ones again. (WARNING: Video contains graphic content of a turtle in distress.)
…and thanks to a tip from my friend Kate, I’ve also ditched plastic toothbrushes (they don’t recycle and won’t break down for generations, if ever) – I’ve just ordered these biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes . Shame they don’t do an equivalent for electric toothbrushes – yet.
I even found a recipe for toothpaste which I might try when I’ve a bit more time!
I have been using Method and Ecover products (everything from hand-wash, furniture polish, floor cleaner, washing up liquid, laundry detergent to toilet cleaner) for almost a decade as I wanted to reduce our use of toxic substances which end up in our water. Bonus: they have gorgeous recyclable packaging, smell divine and almost make household chores enjoyable!
But then another friend, Rosana, told me she uses bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar to clean a lot of stuff and it’s the most eco-friendly thing to do. She assured me that it doesn’t make the house smell like a chippy (the smell fades once it’s dry), so I’ve just ordered some to try (although I do love the smell of my Method stuff!)
Microfibre cloths long-ago replaced the spongey wipes I used to buy. Yes, they are made with plastics but they last for ages (mine have been going strong for 3 years now), wash well and are so absorbent they mop up spills brilliantly. You also end up using less cleaning product so they rate pretty well from an eco-friendly perspective. These glass cloths polish up mirrors and windows with only water too. Some friends have switched to washable, reusable bamboo kitchen roll, although as we don’t use much kitchen roll anyway, I’m sticking to what I have already. Lynne also uses old clothes as cleaning rags – which is a great idea (then I’d say put the tatty old-past-it cleaning rags in bags for recycling at H&M and you can still get your £5 voucher!).
On a more tech-savvy note, we got a Smart Meter last year which displayed how much energy we were using every time we boiled a kettle or (*shock*) put the tumble dryer on. I have to admit to using the dryer for speed when I had two really young children, the amount of laundry we got through, but just watching those numbers rack up on the meter (energy and money) floored me into finally buying a double washing line and a load of pegs (these ones are made from recycled plastic and fully recyclable). Of course, the smell of line-dried clothes is addictive, which helps. We just need some sun now!
The meter also encouraged us to get energy-saving LED Hue lighting in most of our rooms and the garden plus some motion sensors in the hallways, bathroom and understairs cupboard, so the lights automatically come on when you’re there and then switch themselves off after a delay. Brilliant; it’s stopped me huffing at my family for leaving lights on everywhere and it’s also great if the kids need to get up in the middle of the night – the lights activate at a dimmer level at night so as not to wake them up too much. We can even control the lights from our phones!
Our Nest thermostat also smartly regulates our heating, so when we are out of the house (which it knows from the app on our phones) it turns the heating down. Clever stuff. Our energy bills have almost halved as a result of all this tech-wizardry. But I am wondering if, like our kids, the house may one day get smarter than me…?
As a company, we have now joined the Guardian Sustainable Business Network too which will help us keep up-to-date with other ethical and sustainability innovations.
ADDENDUM: I forgot these tips so have added them here! My husband and I have been using Contigo sippy flasks for about six years – he grinds his own coffee every morning and I make my decaf tea and they safely go in our bags next to laptops – drinks stay hot for hours and no disposable paper/plastic cups – saves a fortune too! I even used them round the house whilst breastfeeding (safe with hot liquid over baby) and they were toddler-proof so could safely be grabbed or knocked over.
All the family also have aluminum drinking bottles (healthier than plastic ones which can leach chemicals and waaaay better than buying plastic bottled water) – they no longer make the ones we’ve got but these look pretty similar. Both types of bottles get chucked in the dishwasher each day so the get sterilized too.
Hopefully, there’s something in this article that will inspire you to make some #smallchanges in your work and home life.
Let’s all make 2018 our most sustainable year yet.