OMG. Is there a parent alive who actually likes them?
They are an additional source of stress and expense for kids parties, and whenever I speak to any fellow parents about them, I get them same rolled eyes and pained expressions.
But the kids LOVE them.
I have no idea why a piece of cake, a balloon and a handful of plastic tat that breaks within 3 minutes is so exciting, but apparently it is - I'm embarrassed to say that my youngest seems to think that they are the most important part of any party.
One option is obviously to take a stand and simply not do them.
And if I was braver I would love to do this. But my youngest simply cannot compute having a party, and not having party bags. So I've had to get inventive, dare I say even creative, with our party bags to avoid buying and giving out 'instant landfill'.
Here are some ideas for plastic-free(ish) party bags:
- Good old paper bags are a great option
You can buy recycled paper ones here online from Eco-craft - the plain ones are a great idea as you can get the kids to decorate them, which depending on whether you have boys or girls at the party will take anything from 30 seconds to 45 minutes. All of which time they are seated and not marauding around destroying things.
- Make your own paper bags
If you're feeling crafty and have time on your hands (if you do, please can you come and organise my kids parties for me) you can make bags from newspapers or magazines - there's a tutorial here.
- Make your own fabric bags from old t-shirts or pillowcases
If you're a whiz with the sewing machine, this might be an option for you!
T-shirts are super easy to make bags out of - turn it inside out and sew up the bottom of the t-shirt, enlarge the neck hole and chop off the sleeves, turn it the right way round again and you're done!
- Cup cakes, or a piece of cake wrapped in a good old paper napkin, greaseproof paper or foil (avoid clingfilm!)
- Number shaped biscuits - I use this shortbread recipe here and number cutters for the appropriate number for the age of the birthday boy/girl and pop a couple in the bag
- Chocolate buttons - these go down a storm.
Melt a couple of bars of fair-trade chocolate and then use a teaspoon to smoosh giant buttons onto a lined baking tray. Decorate with sprinkles and leave to set.
You could either do little jam jars of these in lieu of a party bag, or pop some into a small paper bag inside the main party bag.
- Chocolate coins or chocolate eggs - if you remember at Christmas/Easter time stock up on foil wrapped Christmas coins and eggs!
- Pick 'n' mix - who wouldn't love a bag of pick 'n' mix - my kids would have to wrestle me for it. Just don't put it in those plastic cones!
This one will earn you brownie points with the party go-ers parents, but maybe some less enthusiastic from the kids..!
The Book People often do packs of books where the individual books work out at less than £1 each, so this can be quite an inexpensive option.
Either gift on their own, or as part of a party bag if you're feeling very generous.
A pack of something like sunflower seeds can work well if you have a spring/summer party. Have a competition afterwards to see you can grow the tallest sunflower.
Or cress seeds to make a cress head can also be quite fun.
- Colouring pencils
Kids can seemingly never have enough colouring pencils. Or at least mine can't.
Check out these ones here made from actual twigs - they're fab!
- Recycled crayons
If you have a stash of crayons that have seen better days, break them all up and melt the in silicone ice cube trays in a very low oven. We did this once with a lego brick mould and they were fab!
- Colouring books
- If you really want to get little eco-warriors excited about all things plastic-free, then their very own metal straw might go down well!
If you don't have the time/energy to spend devoting your life to plastic-free(ish) party bags, then here are some 'done for you' links:
- Plastic Free Party Bags - does what it says on the tin! There's the option of buying pre-filled bags, or just buying the gifts to fill your own.
- Not on the High Street has an option to select 'eco-friendly' when you search for party bag fillers.
- Ethical Kidz has some nice plastic-free things to put in party bags
Sorry to be a party pooper but balloons are a no-no, whether they're 'biodegradable' or not.
If they break free and fly off when they come down they are a risk to wildlife. And even if they don't, they will spend years sitting in landfill before they even start to degrade.
- Plastic cones
I mentioned this one earlier, but these things make me wince - plastic cones filled with sweets and then tied off with plastic ribbon.
Get a good old fashioned paper bag!
- Instant landfill
Think twice before doing a minesweep of your local Pound Shop or the 'tat' section of the toy shop. These toys break within minutes and there is nothing that can be done with them other than put them in the bin. Plus you will be making kids cry when they break.
This is such a 'thing' right now and I know kids love nothing more than a pot of slime, but most commercially available pots are just stretchy slimy blobs of plastic 🙁
God I am the totally the fun police in this post.
Glitter is essentially a micro-plastic and when you can finally get it off your hands/face/every conceivable surface of your home and even some inconceivable places, it gets washed down the sink and passes straight though the filtration systems and on out into our waterways.
If you just can't face the tantrums, then there are eco-friendly glitters available.
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the key to avoiding catastrophic 'climate breakdown' is limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C rather than the previously widely talked about 2C, but the consensus is that we need to act fast, we need to act NOW and we need to take action at every level.
Whenever I see articles on climate change in the press my inclination is to look away.
It's too scary, too overwhelming to be forced to confront the colossal f*ck up we are making of the planet, and to think about the kind of future our kids and grandkids might be facing. Add to that the helplessness I feel when I watch the world's leaders and governments essentially fiddling while Rome burns, spending vast amounts on Brexit negotiations and the like whilst ignoring the most pressing problem of our time.
As individuals it can be easy to feel helpless and hopeless and to then simply carry on as we were before because there seems to be very little point in creating change at an individual or family level - after all, surely we need governments to make changes of the kind of size needed to even start to make a difference.
Well, yes. And no.
We have a choice.
Either to stand by helplessly and watch the planet burn up and become increasingly inhospitable, wringing our hands and waiting for government and big business to take action.
Or we step into our individual power to create change.
To cut OUR carbon footprint, knowing that these small individual actions collectively add up to reduce the global carbon footprint.
To put pressure on those in positions of power and influence to let them know that is important. Vitally important. That we care desperately about this, and that we will be using our vote and our voice to elect into power those that are taking this huge challenge seriously, and putting the needs of people and planet above any financial incentives or profits.
And it doesn't have to mean hair shirts and deprivation.
We can ALL make a difference.
Here's 6 ways:
I say this again and again, but it really is probably THE most powerful thing you can do to cut not only your own carbon footprint, but to reduce global emissions too.
It works twofold:
- The energy that your house is using is added into the grid via renewable resources - wind and solar being the most common here in the UK
- It creates a demand for more renewable energy, which helps new technologies to come on board quicker, and means that the price can keep coming down
If you're in the UK try Ecotricity or Good Energy, and check out this podcast here with one of the energy bods at Good Energy to hear more about why renewable energy is such a no-brainer.
I really don't want to go into the whole vegan debate here so I won't - but the key message is to eat less meat, especially beef.
The mantra of 'buy less, buy better' really does apply here. So not only buy less meat, but when you do buy it, support your local farmer and go for meat that has been reared as 'unintensively' as possible.
Meat free Monday is a great campaign aiming to get everyone to have at least one meat free day a week, and the website is packed with recipes and ideas to help you to achieve this.
And this post here has more ideas for how to eat more sustainably.
I mentioned this in the section above with regards to buying meat, but it applies to everything - food, clothes, electronics, toys, 'stuff'....
Most of our homes are overflowing with 'stuff', to the extent that there are now professional declutterers who make a living helping us to escape from under the piles of it.
Before you buy, stop and think for a minute about:
- Whether you really need something, or if you just want it
- If you just want it, how much do you want it? Wait for a week and see if you still really want it, or if you've forgotten about it.
- How long will it last? In the case of clothes, buying good quality 'classics' that will always be in fashion is an easy way to avoid being sucked into the cycle of fast fashion.
- Is this something you want to keep in your life for at least the next 5 or 10 years? Will you love it and look after it?
- What will you do with it when you no longer want it? Will anyone else want it?
I'm not asking you to give up your car.
But thinking more carefully about how you use your car can have a big impact on your carbon footprint.
For journeys under 2 miles, could you walk or cycle instead? Or get the bus?
When you next replace your car, take a look at electric ones - they are coming down in price all the time.
Make your voice heard.
Whether that's casting your vote with the money you spend, or actually physically speaking up and letting both businesses and governments know the kind of future that you want.
Vote with your money. Vote with your tweets. Vote with your letters of frustration.
Let people know that this matters to you. That this is important. That you care.
Because this does matter. This is important. We all care.
And we need to act NOW before it's too late and we're left having to try and answer our kids when they ask "why didn't you do more?"
I love the idea of plastic-free shopping.
It looks blissful from what I see on social media - beautiful young hipsters wafting through their local zero waste store with their mason jars and cotton bags at the ready.
There's not a child, or a queue, or a single piece of plastic in sight.
I want me a piece of that.
But sadly, I am not a beautiful young hipster. My default setting is 'rush' rather than 'waft'. And even if I did waft I don't have a local zero waste store to waft around.
So what are the rest of us to do if we want to reduce plastic when we're doing our weekly trawl round the supermarket, with or without whining children in tow?
Here's 9 ways to shop plastic-free(ish) at your local supermarket:
Go for the loose fruit and veg wherever you can and take your own re-usable bags.
Onya do a great set of really thin mesh bags, or if you're a whiz with the sewing machine you can knock some up from something like an old net curtain.
If all else fails, use the plastic bags they have at the supermarket, but re-use them again and again until they fall apart.
Take your tupperware to the deli counter for things like meat and cheese.
Morrisons have now made it policy to accept these, and I think Tesco are also introducing it, so I promise you it won't be as scary as you might think!
If you're into beautiful zero waste stuff you can get some gorgeous metal tiffin boxes, or if you're like the rest of us you can wrestle with your mess of a tupperware drawer to find the lid that fits the box.
If your local supermarket has an in-store bakery, use it!
Take re-usable bags (old pillowcases work well) and use them for bread, rolls, pastries etc.
If you've got the time and you enjoy baking, how about making your own? Either by hand or using a bread machine - flour is almost inevitably in a paper bag, so that's a winner.
Last resort - re-use the plastic bags that your bread comes in for packed lunches and sandwiches etc.
Ditch the plastic tubs of margarine and go back to butter.
If you can find butter in foil packs, you should be able to peel the foil and the greaseproof paper apart and recycle both separately. Simply chuck your empty butter wrapper into the washing up bowl after doing it and leave it to soak until the two layers magically float apart.
Look for the things that you can find easily in paper - you might be surprised just how many there are!
Flour, sugar (caster sugar, granulated sugar, and icing sugar) and porridge oats can all be found relatively painlessly in paper bags.
Biscuits are always going to be a struggle - but if you can buy the ingredients (flour, sugar, butter) plastic-free then this recipe here is super quick and super reliable!
Sometimes there are alternatives in cardboard rather than plastic that you just don't notice as you're so 'in the zone' and just grabbing your usual brand.
Lots of washing powders are now available in cardboard boxes - how about trying one of them instead of your usual liquid?
Several of the major supermarkets also do dishwashing powder in a box, so it's worth looking.
Pasta is a BIG staple in our house - Barilla pasta is available in a cardboard box with just a small plastic window and you should be able to find it in some of the larger supermarkets.
Waitrose do a gluten-free pasta that is available in a box made from food waste - more of this please supermarkets!
Rice is another one that can sometimes be found in cardboard boxes - just be sure to do the squidge test (see below).
Sometimes you can buy a product in paper or cardboard, full of excitement and the very best of intentions, only to get home and find there is a sneaky plastic bag inside.
To try and avoid this, do the 'squidge test' - simply hold said product up to your ear and give it a gentle squidge, listening out for the tell-tale crackle of plastic inside (ignore any strange looks you might get from fellow shoppers - superman didn't care about wearing his pants outside his trousers, we can't let looking a few strange looks stop us on our mission...)
If you can't find a plastic-free solution that suits you and the family, buy the largest size that you can.
We get the big share packs of crisps and then
scoff the lot portion them out into plastic bags that we re-use for lunch boxes. And do the same for yoghurts too - get the 500ml pots and scoop it into little tupperware pots for the kids to have at school.
Totally not a perfectly plastic-free solution, but plastic-free(ish) and it keeps the kids vaguely happy, so it's a win in my book.
If you have a sweet tooth like
me my kids you'll be pleased to know you can still get your sugar fix plastic-free.
Most of the supermarket own brand bars of chocolate come in paper and foil, and work out way cheaper per 100g than the plastic bags of chocolates. Brands like Divine are also a pretty good bet (and very yummy and ethical too).
When it comes to the pure sugar rush of sweets, think pick 'n' mix if you still have a good old fashioned sweet shop or newsagents near you. An alternative that I was perhaps a little over-excited to discover over the summer was 1kg tubs (oh yes!) of Haribo in Morrisons - I won't tell you how long 2 tubs lasted us...
OK, let's start by addressing the elephant/cat/dog/hamster in the room...
Owning a pet is not in itself a sustainable thing to do. A book written by some sustainable living peeps in New Zealand in 2009 suggested that a medium sized dog has the ecological 'pawprint' equivalent to twice that of an average SUV (think people-carrier). Now I'm not sure how robust the science is on that one, but I think it's still worth bearing in mind that our pets create their own emissions (not just the smelly ones!) and that by making different choices we can limit their 'paw print'.
Having said that, owning a pet by and large brings happiness, laughter, and adds to the quality of our lives - sustainable(ish) isn't about depriving ourselves that bring us joy, it's about making the best choices we can and living the best lives we can whilst looking after the future of the planet.
Here are some tips for plastic-free(ish) pets to help you to do just that!
We've all got to eat, and pets are no different.
While at first glance it might appear impossible to find food that isn't encased in plastic, it's easier than it might seem:
It's unavoidable. Pet's make poo. And we have to deal with it.
Here are some plastic-free(ish) options:
As with food, pet treats now seem to all come encased in plastic. Here are some alternatives:
See what you can find second-hand. Bowls, beds, crates, even leads can be picked up secondhand - check out your local charity shops (the pet charity shops seem to do quite a good line in secondhand pet stuff, perhaps unsurprisingly!) or post a WANTED in your local Freecycle/Feegle group.
If you're buying new, buy to last.
Metal and ceramic bowls will last longer and age better than plastic (as long as you don't drop them...). You can also get 'eco bowls' made from bamboo and rice husks from Beco which might be worth looking at.
And buy ethical - there are some amazing ethically made collars and leads out there - I love these ones from Koko Collective, ethically made in India from old bike inner tubes and discarded saris!
When it comes to beds, think about how often you might need to wash it.
There are lots of beds and blankets now made from recycled plastic bottles, which sounds great, but unfortunately each time you wash them, they will release microfibres of plastic into the waterways.
For toys, again you can buy 'eco' toys' which are often stuffed with recycled plastic bottles, but these tend to pose less of a microfibre risk although that depends on how fanatical you are about washing your pet toys (I am not.)
Remember with pets that less is often more. Cats love a good old ball of scrunched up foil, or better yet, a scrunched up ball of foil in a cardboard box..! And for dogs you can make great pull toys by plaiting old bits of fabric together.
I'm not a big fan of the excessively groomed look and have a suitably scruffy mutt as testament to this. However she does love a good old roll in whatever poo she can find on walks - the smellier the better.
Instead of reaching for the plastic bottles of designer looking pet shampoos, see if you can find a bar soap. Yes, you can buy special pet shampoo bars, or just find a mild baby soap and use that.
Parasite wise, I know that some people swear by the use of garlic or garlic powder as a flea treatment or deterrent, and if that works for you, then that's fab and an easy plastic-free solution, but bear in mind that in high doses garlic is toxic for dogs, and GARLIC SHOULD NEVER BE FED TO CATS!!
It can be hard to find a licensed flea and worm treatment plastic free - the best plastic-free(ish) option I've found so far is Bravecto - available as a tablet for dogs and a spot-on for cats. Still in plastic BUT it gives you 12 weeks worth of treatment in one go vs only 4 weeks for other licensed alternatives.
The annual 'rubbish-fest' that is Zero Waste Week is nearly upon us once more!
Now in it's 11th year, Zero Waste Week is an amazing event that utilises the online space to promote awareness of all things rubbish, and more importantly the things we can do to reduce ours!
But "Zero Waste Week" can sound a bit daunting to the uninitiated can't it?
I was put off joining in for years under the mis-guided assumption I would be apprehended by the bin police if put so much as a morsel in the bin. But fear not, it's really not daunting, or scary. At All. It's a wonderful celebration of all the amazing people, initiatives, and organisations that are taking action to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfill.
Here are some easy ways to get ready to join in!
This is all about the -ish.
It's Zero-Waste(ish) Week really.
The whole idea is to raise awareness, and to encourage people to just get started, to make one small change.
And realise it's not that bad, or that hard. So they make another, and another.
No-one is expecting you to end the week with an empty bin. If it's got one or two less things in it, that's AWESOME. Even if it hasn't, you'll hopefully have inspiration and ideas, and a plan for it to be emptier very soon!
I bang on about this a lot. It's got a whole chapter in my Essential Guide to a Plastic-free(ish) Home, and I anticipate it being in many more of my e-guides (coming soon!).
It's so important to know why you want to create change - it's a great motivator and will keep you going during those times when you just can't be bothered and would rather take the easier, possibly more convenient route (we've all been there. And believe me, my conscience doesn't win out all the time!)
For Rachelle, founder of Zero Waste Week (see below) it was being in Boscastle in Cornwall when it flooded, and realising the effects of climate change where here. Now.
For her husband it was seeing that iconic picture of a turtle with a carrier bag in his mouth and realising that could have been his carrier bag.
Ahead of last year's Zero Waste Week I interviewed Rachelle Strauss who founded this annual zero waste celebration.
Find out more about Rachelle's Zero Waste journey, how and why she got started, and the impact that Zero Waste Week is having around the globe!
If you are ever in any doubt that ONE person can have an impact and make a difference, you NEED to listen to this one.
Last year the #zerowasteweek hashtag had over 56 MILLION 'impressions' on Twitter (that's Twitter speak for how many accounts/people the hashtag reached.)
It's used by businesses, local councils, organisations, and ordinary people like you and me. Even Jamie Oliver has joined in before!
Take a look and get inspired by all the different, amazing things that people are doing for their very own Zero Waste Week.
You don't need to 'officially' sign up to Zero Waste Week to be part of the action, but if you do you'll get daily e-mails during Zero Waste Week with inspiration and ideas for actions you can take.
I'm a Zero Waste Week Ambassador and I've seen the itinerary for this year - it's going to be a good one! You can sign up right here.
Tell all your friends!
Share on your FB page, or on Twitter or IG if you're on there. Let people know about Zero Waste Week and why you're taking part. And then invite them to join in too!
Zero Waste Week isn't really just for one week a year.
It's like a puppy - it's for life, not just for Christmas!
There is absolutely no point in joining in and being evangelical about rubbish for one week of the year and then going back to your regular routine the moment it's finished.
And I think in reality it would be hard to do this - once your eyes have been opened to the impact of your waste on the planet, and the huge potential there is for positive change, there's no going back!
But once the excitement and social media buzz of Zero Waste Week is over, it can be easy to feel a bit lonely and like you're the only person you know trying to make a difference.
But fear not! Help is at hand.
The Zero Waste Week Facebook group - Zero Waste Heroes - is like Zero Waste Week all year round.
And my own FB community is another great place to connect with like-minded people and to realise you're not alone.
This is such a powerful thing to do, and one of the things I really urge readers to do in The Essential Guide to a Plastic-free(ish) Home.
It's not glamorous, but it WILL help!
Don your (re-usable!) rubber gloves and dive deep into the contents of your bin - Rachelle has put together a handy pdf here for you to use to record your findings.
I guarantee this will be a real eye-opener. We throw stuff 'away' and then it's out of sight, out of mind. Once it's in our bins we don't really think about it anymore. Having to get up close and personal with what we've discarded lets us 'see the rabbit', so we know what we're tackling.
Once you are faced with the reality of what's in your bin, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and not even know where to start.
For Zero Waste Week, pick ONE thing.
One thing you want to tackle and that you WILL take action on.
It could be clingfilm, or packaging from fruit and veg, or bottles of water.
If you're all fired up to tackle your bin but struggling to know where to start, I've put together a FREE 7 day e-mail course, which will help you to easily reduce the amount of single use plastic you're throwing away. It's called Plastic-free(ish) in a Week and is packed with ideas, suggestions and tips to help you to get started and really make a difference! You can sign up here, or by clicking on the picture below.
Clingfilm, or plastic wrap, or cling wrap, or saran wrap, or whatever you like to call it - the thin stretchy stuff that sticks to itself food wrap that has become a ubiquitous part of packed lunches and fridges everywhere.
In fact, unwrapping sandwiches wrapped in clingfilm is now a compulsory part of the pre-school curriculum*.
Although as a stretchy plastic, it is technically recyclable in some parts of the world, it very rarely is due to contamination with food. So the vast majority of it ends up in the bin.
Not what we want.
So what are the alternatives for keeping leftovers fresh, and sandwiches all in one piece?
Yes, still plastic, but not single use, which is the key!
Pack your sandwiches carefully, maybe keep them wedged in place with a bit of fruit, and off you go.
Just don't give them any space to move around or you'll end up with bread and filling in different areas, which isn't really what a sandwich is all about.
The biggest challenge you may face is finding the right lid for the right tub...
More readily and easily re-used and recycled, this is a better option than clingfilm, but isn't idea in terms of resource use etc. However if you're looking for baby steps to wean you and the family away from the sticky plastic stuff, this is a good one to take.
Wipe off any for residue after using, fold and stash away again until it starts to become full of holes, and then pop it into your recycling bins with the tin cans.
The internet is going crazy for beeswax wraps..
You can buy them from somewhere like this, or you can easily make your own - my lovely friend Wendy at Moral Fibres did a great how toand it looks super easy!
You can use them to wrap sandwiches, cover bowls of leftovers, or even make little pouches for things like crisps or chopped up veg.
Produced by Eco Snack Wrap, and ethically made in India from 100% cotton, these can be put in the freezer, re-used infinitely, and washed in the washing machine. And the wrap opens up to make a handy little placemat too!
Made of food-grade silicon these sheets act like clingfilm but can be washed and re-used, and then recycled at the end of their life.
This is one of my favourite things to make for gifts - it's really easy to adapt, and one batch can make quite a few gifts!
I like to package it up into old jam jars for the ultimate in plastic-free(ish) gifting. I say plastic-free(ish) as I have yet to find cream in a non-plastic container - if you know of some, do let me know!
During Plastic-Free July I thought a lot about the concept of "plastic-free" and how it feels out of reach for most of us (including me).
Although I'm hugely passionate about the need to reduce our use of plastics (both our own use as a family, and as a global community) I can't confess to living anything like a plastic-free life. For us as a family, I'm not sure how achievable "plastic-free living" actually is. There are the inevitable compromises that come with kids, and with living with a partner who although supportive, isn't quite on the same page as me.
If it was just me on my own, I would be quite rigid, dare I say, even draconian. I would forgo sweets and crisps, and anything else packaged in plastic.
But do you know what? Sometimes my kids want a packet of sweets. OK, pretty much anytime of the day or night my kids would quite happily scoff a packet of sweets.
When we do our supermarket shop they love nothing more than hanging around in the magazine aisle longingly eyeing up the latest tat encrusted offerings. And there's only so many times I have the resilience to say "No". Sometimes I will confess, I weaken. I try to direct them to the 'least bad' option, but sometimes I just can't face the tantrums.
So when I was putting together my e-guide to help people reduce the amount of single use plastics they are using, I didn't want to call it a "Plastic-Free" e-guide. Because it's a bit off-putting isn't it? The pressure, the expectation that after reading it, you'd be living this perfect plastic-free life. That you would have easily embraced all things re-usable and would be happily skipping around your nearest zero-waste store (making the massive assumption that you have a zero waste store near you to skip around..)
And that all your waste for the year would fit into a mason jar.
We all know that that's super unlikely to happen, no matter how great my e-guide is 😉
So I went with a title of The Essential Guide to a Plastic-Free(ish) Home, and the whole "ish" things is something I am loving!
It works for everything:
- plastic-free (ish) kids, home, family, camping etc.
- zero-waste (ish) baking, travelling, back to school
- sustainable (ish) fashion, food, celebrations.
It's acknowledging the fact that for most of us, there are no absolutes.
That it's ok just to get started and to have to make compromises.
To not be perfectly "plastic-free" or "zero-waste", to not live a 100% "sustainable life".
It's about working out the bits that you can do, and then doing them.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and like you could never be plastic-free, or zero-waste, or perfectly sustainable, so why even bother starting.
We need to start. We need to focus on progress, not perfection.
So maybe you want to find alternatives to bottles of shampoo, but you just can't get on with shampoo bars. So you end up buying 5L bottles of shampoo and using them to re-fill your smaller bottles. It's a plastic-free(ish) solution. It's not perfect. But it's progress.
The "ish" means getting started. It means picking your battles. Figuring out what works for you and your family, which in all likelihood isn't the same thing that works for young singletons living in large cities. And in all likelihood probably isn't even the same thing as your friend down the road.
But we all need to do what we can if we are to have an impact on climate change, or plastic pollution, or fast fashion.
It's a journey. It's your journey. It's a journey that might not even have a destination - you may never even reach the nirvana of "a sustainable life". I certainly haven't.
But you can be "sustainable (ish)" and "plastic-free (ish)" and "zero-waste (ish)" right from the moment you decide to take action and make a difference.
Plastics are in the news a LOT at the moment, but although we all now kind of know we should be doing things to reduce our use, it's sometimes hard to know where to start, or what to do next.
So I'm going to 'bust' some of the big plastic myths with you to help you get taking action!
So grab your cuppa (plastic-free, obvs), get comfy and read on!
Nope. No. Nein. Non. Not At All.
Yes, the instagram ideal that we often see touted online is beautiful hipsters gaily tripping around the farmers market and local zero waste shops, hessian shopping bags and glass jars at the ready. But for the rest of us that couldn't be any further from the truth.
For me, it's remembering to take my re-usable shopping bags with me as I battle round the supermarket trying not to cave into the kid's incessant demands for packet of plastic wrapped sweets, and those bl**dy magazines festooned with plastic tat.
It's ordering a fruit and veg box to come delivered to my door, plastic free.
It's buying a 5L bottle of shower gel to refill our smaller bottle, when it turns out that no-one else in the family really likes using soap.
All small things, all far from plastic-free perfection. But all plastic-free(ish) and all plastic-free progress.
The more mainstream that plastic-free(ish) becomes, the more the retailers will jump on the bandwagon. And it can suddenly seem like you have to spend a small fortune on your 'essential zero waste kit' to feel like you're doing it properly.
Well you know what?
There's no such thing as doing it properly. Only working out what works for you, and then doing that.
If your lifestyle isn't one of daily commutes, and grabbing takeaway coffees, maybe you don't even need a re-usable coffee cup.
If you don't have kids, and never actually use straws, don't feel like you have to buy a set of stainless steel ones complete with (very cute) teeny tiny pipe cleaner to be a bona-fide plastic-free warrior.
And taking plastic-free(ish) steps could actually SAVE you money!
Taking your own water bottle and re-filling it with tap water saves you the cost of all those bottles of mineral water.
Buying loose fruit and veg from your local greengrocer can often be cheaper than the supermarket.
Even making your own deodorant - it takes minutes, it's plastic-free, and it totally works!
It absolutely does not!
Or at least my version doesn't.
For me, it's all about the small steps, the new habits that we can easily incorporate into our daily lives, that make a difference.
No-one is expecting you to become a plastic-free monk who eschews all things plastic, and never eats a bag of crisps again.
It's all about becoming 'plastic-conscious' - becoming more aware of the plastic (and we're talking single-use plastics here) you are using, and one by one, step by step, working out ways to replace or reduce them, THAT WORK FOR YOU.
If you can't shake that nagging guilt each time you put out your landfill bin, if you feel like you're a Very Bad Person each time you forget your re-usable shopping bag, if you want to take action but you're feeling overwhelmed and a little bit helpless at the sheer volume of plastic in your life, then The Essential Guide to a Plastic-free (ish) Home is exactly what you need!
In it I help you to:
- Work out your biggest plastic problems and what to tackle first
- Find swaps and replacements for single-use plastics that work for you and your family
- Get your partner and/or kids on board, so you're not feeling lie your efforts are constantly being sabotaged by the rest of the family
- Tackle plastic in your kitchen, bathroom and the rest of your house, one achievable step at time
- Stop feeling guilty, frustrated and overwhelmed by the plastics issue, and become an informed and empowered plastic-free(ish) consumer, taking action on the things they care about
If you're ready to take action, and you want to do it in the easiest, simplest way possible, without judgement or feeling like you need to be perfectly plastic free, then you can grab your copy here!
I'm donating 20% of all sales to the Marine Conservation Society, so your warm glow of personal action taking can be joined by a side order of satisfaction knowing your purchase is helping to tackle plastic pollution on a global scale too 🙂
My boys LOVE having wraps for lunch.
And while they are quick and easy, and make for a painless lunch that I know will be eaten, there is something about shop bought wraps that just makes me feel a bit bleurgh. They don’t really taste of anything much, and just seem to act as a conduit for the filling. And they just look so kind of plastic-y. I’m sure they are probably full of all kinds of preservatives and chemicals to prolong their shelf life (although I will confess I haven’t actually checked).
And then there’s the plastic bags that they come in (although I have to say that we keep hold of them and use them again and again for chucking stuff like rolls and biscuits into and freezing).
Suffice it to say that I am not the biggest fan of them, and have been on the look-out for a reliable homemade version for quite a while.
I tried out Hugh F-W’s flatbread recipe from one of his books, and while they are delicious eaten warm with hummus, they don’t keep well and turn very stiff once they cool down.
But then someone recommended a recipe online and I thought I would give it a go.
And it’s BRILLIANT!
It does take a while to make (it’s the actual cooking of them that takes the time) but then you have a batch of 16, which you can freeze, or they do keep well for a few days.
We’ve been testing them out extensively over the Summer – they work well for lunches at home, but also survive outings in lunch boxes for picnics too. We’ve had them with cheese, carrot hummus, ham, and prawns for lunch. The kids have had them with chocolate spread for snacks, and when they’ve gone a bit stale I’ve toasted them and turned them into min pizzas.
All in all, we are big fans.
This is an 'anglicised' version of the original recipe for fellow Brits/those who don’t have cup measures.
The most important thing seems to be putting them into some kind of sealed container as soon as they are cooked. I dug out a metal tin with a plastic lid and cram them all into this, ramming the lid back on in between each addition. I am sure a normal tupperware box would also suffice.
If you freeze them (we haven’t tried this yet, we have always scoffed them too quickly) then I would suggest laying them out individually on baking sheets and freezing in batches. Once they are frozen, you can pop them all in a bag together to save on freezer space and then just take out as many as you need.
I use my Kitchen Aid mixer which makes life easier, but you could totally do this by hand if you wanted/needed (kneaded?) to.