environment · food · food storage · lifestyle

Easy Kitchen Eco Swaps

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I’ve written before about how we’ve been working to reduce plastic waste around the house through swapping the everyday products we buy for alternatives that are plastic-free and more eco-friendly – eco swaps, if you will! I thought it was time for another update, this time focusing on easy kitchen eco swaps. A lot of plastic waste that we generate comes from the kitchen, so it seems like a logical place to look for opportunities to make life more sustainable…

Easy Kitchen Eco Swaps

Milk Delivery

One of the best swaps we’ve made recently is moving towards a traditional milk delivery by a real, live milkman! When I was a kid we used to have a milkman, but I’ve not had one for years – then, in the autumn we had a knock on the door from a new local milk delivery service, and I thought we’d give it a go. It’s super convenient, and much more eco-friendly – the switch to reusable glass bottles means it completely does away with the need for plastic bottles. Plus, our milk service also has the option to deliver other local produce like eggs, jam and more.

Plastic saving: We used to get through about 6 – 8 pints of milk a week, usually in 2 – 3 bottles. I’d estimate that by switching to a milk delivery, we’ve saved 130 plastic bottles per year – or 2,600 bottles over 20 years… wow!

Refill Shop

When a refill shop opened up in our town, I was super excited, but it was kind of a new concept to me! What is a refill shop? Well, it pretty much does what it says on the tin: it’s a shop where you bring your own containers to buy products which are free of packaging. Every store is different, but often they offer dry foods such as rice and pasta, and liquids such as cooking oils, cleaning products and more. The idea is to make shopping more sustainable by cutting down on plastic packaging, and often by offering fresh local produce as well, to reduce food miles. In general they’re a great option for making your shop more eco-friendly (although I recommend checking out this article by Wired where they look at some of the potential pitfalls of refill shops, as well).

We’ve tried to move to using the refill shop as much as possible for the products that are available, and that has meant that we’ve completely cut out plastic packaging for some products that we use every week – particularly rice and granola. We now also get to mix the perfect granola every morning: combining plain granola and a sprinkling of dried tropical mix, which solves the problem that you get with bags of granola where all the good stuff ends up at the top of the bag, and the last few bowlfuls are rubbish.

Plastic saving: I’ll write about plastic savings on refill toiletries in another article, so focusing just on the rice and granola that we buy regularly, I would estimate that we save a minimum of 68 items of plastic packaging a year – that’s 1,360 items over 20 years.

Eco Friendly Dish Sponges & Scourers

Up to now, we have always used washing up sponges and dish brushes from the supermarket, but these are all plastic, so I started looking into sustainable alternatives. I’ve not bought a new dish brush yet, as our old one still has plenty of use in it, but we’ve swapped to using eco sponges and scourers. They’re great, and there’s plenty of different options out there, made from sustainable materials like plant cellulose, hemp, coconut fibres and more. The only thing to be aware of is that normal plastic-based dish sponges often include ingredients to kill bacteria, whereas sustainable scourers won’t be, so it’s important to keep them dry.

For hard-to-shift, dried-on food, I also found a coconut husk dish scraper which is great for cleaning pots and pans.

Plastic saving: We probably would get through around 6 sponges a year, so that’s 120 plastic sponges saved over 20 years.

Sustainable Washing Up Liquid

Linked to the above, I realised we were getting through a lot of washing up liquid bottles. I’ve tried a solid washing up bar – lemongrass dish soap by LoofCo – but while I loved the smell, and found it cut through grease surprisingly well, I still found liquid washing up soap easier to work with. So currently we’re using our local refill store to top up on washing up liquid, and reusing an old Fairy Liquid bottle to store it.

Plastic saving: I’d guess we save on about four bottles of washing up liquid per year, so that’s 80 bottles over 20 years.

More Eco Friendly Ideas

If you have any ideas for further kitchen eco swaps that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments! I’m always interested to hear about new green products and sustainable alternatives.

And if you’ve enjoyed this article, why not check out my previous blog post on eco swaps to reduce plastic waste or this post on keeping the weaning process more eco-friendly? Or I love this post by Gypsy Soul on eco-friendly lifestyle swaps you can make for free, and this post from Emma Reed about ingredients you need to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products at home!

food · Seasonal · tea

Best Christmas Gifts For Tea Lovers

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It’s no secret that I love tea. That’s why my Instagram account has a regular ‘Tea O’Clock’ feature, where I photograph and review various teas. You’ll also occasionally find tea round-ups and reviews making their way onto this blog. So as Christmas approaches, it seems logical for me to write a post with some great ideas for gifts for tea lovers. And no… They’re not all just different types of tea!

I’ve especially tried to focus on finding tea gifts that are sold by smaller independent UK businesses, and ones that try to be eco-friendly, so you know that your gifts are ethical as well as awesome. If you’re not based in the UK, you may want to double check shipping charges.

Best Christmas Gifts For Tea Lovers

1. Bath Tea by the Samovar Tea House

If you really love tea, you’re probably familiar with that sinking feeling when you get to the end of a cuppa. There’s just never quite enough tea in one cup (no matter how ridiculously oversized your mugs are). Well, now you can combat that feeling by quite literally bathing in an entire bathtub of tea, thanks to the Samovar Tea House’s Bath Tea. They offer two blends for your bath – a relaxation blend with camomile, lavender and rose buds, or an invigoration blend with green tea, peppermint and lemongrass. Just don’t try to drink it afterwards…

2. Self Fill Eco Teabags and Tea Scoop by VeryCraftea

An ideal gift for the eco-conscious tea lover. Put loose-leaf tea into these eco-friendly teabags for convenient infusing without a teapot or infuser. They contain zero plastic (did you know that loads of big-brand teabags contain plastic and may leach microplastics into your cuppa?) and are fully biodegradable and home compostable. And make filling your self-fill teabags that bit easier with a beautiful wooden tea scoop.

3. The Tea Test Kit Gift Set by Arthur Dove Tea Co.

Okay, I know that at the start of this post I said that this gift list wouldn’t just be a list of different kinds of tea. And this gift is… a bunch of different kinds of tea. But bear with me! This gift set is by Arthur Dove Tea Co., who often stock some really lovely and creative tea blends, and it’s a set of five incredibly Christmassy loose leaf teas: their Mince Pie Chai, Yule Log, Mulled Wine, After Eight and Fairytale of New York blends. All of which sound amazing. They’re also presented really nicely: each tea is presented in its own test tube, and the set includes a reusable muslin tea bag, so it’s eco-friendly as well. I think this is a fab gift for the voracious tea lover who enjoys trying lots of new blends of tea, or for any tea lover who’s nuts about Christmas!

4. Tea and Book Club Subscription by Bookishly

If your tea lover is also a book lover, you’re in luck! Bookishly offer an awesome Tea and Book Club subscription, where you receive a vintage book, pack of tea, and stationery every month. You can select a 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, or 12 month subscription – so there are plenty of options! I’ve actually been given this gift previously as a present, and I can testify it’s super. The teas are by Jenier Teas, and include some fantastic flavours you probably wouldn’t try anywhere else. And the books are awesome and very varied – everything from classics of literature, to vintage sci-fi, and more.

5. Alcoholic Tea by NovelTea

Full disclosure: I’ve never bought anything from NovelTea, so I don’t have experience of this company directly – but I love the idea! NovelTea make a range of alcoholic teas (or, let’s be honest, teaholic alcohols) – green mint tea with rum, oolong tea with whisky, earl grey tea with gin – and for Christmas, spiced tea with whisky. Sounds like a great idea for any tea lover who also likes a tipple!

Your ideas: best Christmas gifts for tea lovers

Do you have any great ideas for Christmas gifts for tea lovers? Are you a tea fanatic who’s received an amazing gift? I’d love to hear all about it (especially if the gifts are from small UK businesses and/or have an eco-friendly vibe)! Let me know in the comments.

As Christmas is approaching and you may not get the tea-related gift your heart desires, I also wanted to share this great guide on recycling unwanted presents for a more sustainable festive season…

baby · environment · food · parenting

Eco-friendly Weaning

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So now Little Man is six months old, he’s started trying solid foods! Or very mushy food, really. I’m not sure why we talk about weaning onto solids when the foods in question are actually basically liquid anyway. When we started planning for weaning, I realised just how much plastic can be involved in the process, and I decided to try to reduce the amount of plastic we were using and the amount of plastic waste we generate as well. So I’ve thought about how to do that as far as possible, and I thought I’d blog a bit about it so far… My tips for eco-friendly weaning!

Eco-friendly Weaning

Bamboo Tableware

Obviously ceramic crockery is a bad idea for tiny people who like to throw their bowls on the floor, but although I had plastic plates and bowls when I was little, I wanted to avoid this if possible. Instead, I’ve found some lovely sustainable bamboo tableware including plates, cups and spoons. There are some very cute designs from Sass & Belle and lots of other options if you search online.

The flip side of bamboo tableware is that it’s not dishwasher or microwave safe and not as durable as plastic. Currently I’m fine handwashing Little Man’s plate/bowl after his meals, but as he eats more and when I’m no longer on maternity leave I guess that may become more of a drag! So far though, I’ve really loved them. And Little Man seems to find the spoons easy to hold and nice to chomp on!

Some of our new plates and spoons

High Chair

Again when picking a high chair I really wanted a wooden chair rather than a plastic one. I was expecting wooden chairs to be much more expensive than their plastic equivalents, but actually there was a good range available at a similar price to the plastic chairs. I also think the wooden chairs look nicer! As Little Man hasn’t really spent much time in his new chair yet, I won’t recommend the brand we’ve chosen, but I might talk about it in a follow up post! It’s not completely 100% plastic free as there is plastic in the safety harness, but I think that’s probably difficult to avoid altogether and at least it’s a much lower plastic content than most high chairs.

Eco Friendly Baby Food

In general, our aim is to make our own baby food and avoid pre-packaged stuff as far as possible. So far that’s been fairly easy, I can quite quickly make up some simple mashed potato or other veg, and pop leftovers in the fridge or freezer. However, I know that when we travel or go out and about, it will be a bit more challenging, so I’m doing some research on eco-friendly pre-packaged baby foods. Any tips would be much appreciated! I’m also planning to buy some reusable baby food pouches so that it’s easier to take homemade food out and about.

Bibs and More

Obviously one of the big challenges with weaning is just the mess! At the moment, we’re using cloth bibs and just sticking them in the washing machine, but I do feel like this is using up a lot of water perhaps unnecessarily. The alternative is something like a silicone bib which can just be wiped clean and reused time and again. Which option works out as more eco-friendly? At the moment, I’m coming down on the side of using the cloth bibs.

Your Tips For Eco-Friendly Weaning:

How have you made the weaning process more eco-friendly? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing. Let me know in the comments!

More ideas for an eco-friendly home:

I also wanted to share some more great articles for eco friendly living that I’ve enjoyed recently. I like these ideas for bathroom eco swaps and this post on sustainable cleaning products has got me thinking about other ways we can reduce waste and increase our sustainability. As well as reducing waste, I try to support small businesses, so I also really enjoyed this guide to eco-friendly products available on Etsy, the online handmade marketplace – not somewhere I’d previously thought to look for sustainable products.

lifestyle

Easy Swaps We’ve Made To Reduce Our Plastic Waste (And What We Have Left To Do!)

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So over the last year or two we’ve been really trying to be more conscious of our plastic waste output and to reduce plastic waste where we can. For the most part this has been through small swaps of products, done one at a time. It can feel like it’s not making much of a difference, but actually when I sat down and started working out how much plastic we were saving over the course of a year or more, suddenly even the small swaps started to look significant.

So, I thought I’d share what we’ve done to reduce plastic use in our house, and also some of my thoughts on what we still need to do to make more of a difference. There’s still a long way to go – it’s just amazing how much plastic we use every day without even thinking about it.

Simple Swaps to Reduce Plastic Waste

1. Soap and Shower Gel

We’ve stopped using liquid soap from a plastic dispenser in the bathroom and started using bars of soap instead. I was slightly sad because I love love love the smell of Bayliss and Harding’s Ginseng and Black Pepper handwash, but it’s not environmentally sustainable! We’ve also stopped buying bottles of shower gel and switched to soap in the shower. We were buying our soap from the local packaging-free shop (which we’re lucky to have!), but since the coronavirus lockdown I’ve purchased online from andkeep.com.

Plastic saving: I estimate that we used to get through 2 bottles of hand wash per year, and maybe 12 bottles of shower gel, as me and my husband would have a bottle each. So that’s a saving of 14 plastic bottles each year. And yes, that might be modest, but it still adds up to 280 bottles over 20 years!

Yet to do: We’re still using Fairy liquid dish soap though, so the next step is to find an eco-friendly dish soap that I like using.

2. Shampoo and Conditioner

Actually one of the first swaps I made to reduce plastic use was starting to use solid shampoo bars from Lush. I really like the solid shampoo and a bonus is that it lasts ages – way longer than a bottle of shampoo would. So if solid shampoo seems more expensive on the face of it, trust me – it lasts so long that it works out cheaper overall

However, I have still been using conditioner from a bottle because I couldn’t find a solid alternative I liked. I’ve just bought a new solid conditioner bar from andkeep.com, so I’m planning to ditch the plastic bottles from here on out.

Plastic saving: I estimate I used to use about 6 bottles of shampoo per year and the same of conditioner – perhaps a little more. So it’s a 12 bottle saving per year, or 240 bottles over 20 years.

Yet to do: I guess the next step is finding plastic free hair styling products as well!

3. Toothbrushes

We’ve just switched to using bamboo toothbrushes. They’re about the same price as plastic toothbrushes and you can get them in soft/medium/hard bristles as well. We’re using brushes from Truthbrush.

Plastic saving: You’re supposed to change toothbrush every three months, but I probably only remember to swap them three times a year. For me and my husband that’s six toothbrushes per year, or 120 in 20 years.

Yet to do: You can buy plastic-free toothpaste in jars or tablet form. But I have quite sensitive teeth and currently rely on using Sensodyne regularly, so until I can find a plastic-free option that is formulated for sensitive teeth, I will probably stick with tube toothpaste.

4. Plasters

Did you know you can get plasters made out of bamboo? I sure didn’t! We’ve bought these bamboo plasters from Patch. They’re 100% biodegradable, including the packaging, with no plastic content at all. A small but simple way to reduce plastic waste.

Plastic saving: Okay, realistically we get through a few plasters a year, so the saving is negligible. But perhaps as Little Man gets older it will make more of a difference!

Yet to do: I’m not really sure where else we can take this one. Plastic-free antiseptic cream maybe?

5. Nappies and Nappy Bags

We’re using Kit & Kin nappies. They’re not quite 100% biodegradable but they are much more eco-friendly than a standard nappy and they aim to use sustainable and plant based materials. The packaging etc. is all biodegradable as well. Plus, if you’re a Spice Girls fan – the company is owned by Emma Bunton! Then for nappy bags we use Naty nappy sacks, which are made from corn starch and are 100% biodegradable.

Plastic saving: I won’t count the nappies, as they’re not 100% biodegradable – even though they’re a massive improvement on most nappies. But we get through probably a minimum of 7 nappy bags per day, so over the course of the year that’s 2,555 plastic nappy bags that we’re not adding to the planet’s plastic waste problem.

Yet to do: The most eco-friendly option is reusable nappies, but I have to admit I’ve not been brave enough to try them yet. Especially as our washing machine is on its last legs.

6. Baby Wipes

According to Friends of the Earth, not only do non-biodegradable wet wipes contribute to our marine plastic problems, but they also make up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages in the UK. We use Mum & You biodegradable baby wipes, which are great. The last time I bought a box, the plastic wrapper they came in was not recyclable, but writing this article I’ve just checked – and they have changed their packaging material, so it’s now recyclable and I can give them an unambiguously glowing review if you’re looking to reduce plastic waste in your household!

Plastic saving: We get through probably a minimum of five wipes a day, although usually I would say it’s probably more. At five a day though, that’s a saving of 1,825 plastic-containing wipes per year.

Yet to do: Friends of the Earth still say that it’s best not to use single-use wipes at all, even biodegradable ones. They recommend making your own wet wipes out of flannels. To be honest, that sounds like a mission, you’d probably still need to store them in plastic tubs, and if you left them too long they’d probably go mouldy, so not sure how I feel about that one…

Your Ideas To Reduce Plastic Waste:

Have you made any swaps to reduce plastic that have worked well for you? I’d love to hear what other people are doing and share ideas! Leave me a comment below.

I’ve also written about how to reduce plastic waste during the weaning process, as it’s so easy to end up creating lots of additional waste when weaning. Why not take a look?