As this episode goes live, we're right in the middle of Plastic Free July, a global movement to encourage people to reduce their consumption of single use plastics. Since Blue Planet II it feels like the world is finally waking up to the impact of plastic pollution on our planet, which is fabulous, but it can also feel really overwhelming.
In this episode I'm chatting to Martin Dorey, founder of the #2minutebeachclean campaign. Martin is a writer, surfer and activist, who wanted to take action to help to clean up the beaches near him in Cornwall. In 2013 he took a picture of the litter he had collected and shared it on social media with the #2minutebeachclean hashtag, thinking that if just one person joined in, that would double his beach cleaning efforts.
Since then over 79,000 posts have been shared on IG using the hashtag, and the latest estimate is that at least 130 tonnes of plastic has been picked!
Martin has now taken the next logical step, and created the #2minutesolution - small, easy things we can ALL do to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans.
We’ve been using Ecover washing powder for several years now, and I have no complaints about it - it seems to wash pretty well, and we buy it in bulk in paper sacks, so it wins on the zero waste side too. However, when I started making soap, all my experimenting with different recipes and oils, has meant that we have something of a stockpile amassing. So I started to look for other uses for the small mountain of soap that is taking over our kitchen. I found this recipe in Sarah Harper’s The Natural and Handmade Soap Book, which is, by the way, a FABULOUS book for anyone interested in all things soap.
I started using this washing powder a few months ago, and wasn’t really that sure it would work, but as with most of the homemade cleaning recipes I’ve tried, it actually does!
I have two boys, who seem to have an affinity for mud, and tomato sauce, especially on white school shirts. I have to confess to never bothering my whites and coloured-everything gets chucked in together, but the white school shirts are still white, and it seems to deal well with the challenges of mud and tomato sauce.
This batch makes 800g of powder, and it lasts us 4-6 weeks (we do an average of 1-2 washes a day). You can always halve it if you wash less, but it seems to keep pretty well.
If you're looking around your house for ways to reduce your plastic footprint, sooner or later your attention is going to turn to your bathroom and the whole host of single use plastic lurking in there.
Toothpaste tubes might not be the first thing you want to tackle but they're not especially recyclable, so are a great thing to swap out if you can. The great news for us here in the UK that there is now a ban in place on products containing microbeads, so you won't inadvertently find yourself swilling micro plastics down the drain, but you're still left with that pesky plastic tube to deal with.
Until recently there weren't a huge number of alternatives, but plastic free toothpaste seems to be coming more and more commonplace - yay!
Here are a few options:
I've been trying this out, and I have to say I really like it!
It's quite a different tooth brushing experience, and it makes a mess of your sink (!) but it leaves my teeth feeling super clean.
I've got some of these on order, and I'm excited to try them - I'm going to get the kids to try them too. I'll update this post with my experiences!
I've never tried this but I've heard lots of zero-wasters talk about it.
As with anything there are oodles of 'recipes' out there on the interweb, so do have a look to find one that suits you if you want to have a go.
This post here has loads of different recipes and is from an actual dentist, so I'm hoping that means it's ok, and you won't all hold me responsible if your teeth fall out...
Plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans, and in our local environment is all too easy to see.
Sadly it's everywhere we look - simply going for a 20 minute dog walk around my house can result in a bag full of plastic waste picked up.
But there's another problem caused by plastics, and one that's pretty much invisible.
As the name suggests, these are small bits of plastic (I think technically less than 5mm in diameter) and lots of them are actually microscopic.
They are so small they pass through the filters at water processing plants, heading out into our waterways and ending up in the ocean.
There are now more microplastics particles in our oceans than their are stars in our galaxy - terrifying stuff.
What happens to the micro plastics in the ocean is that they enter the food chain, starting off with tiny zooplankton, until eventually they reach us, and other top chain predators, and we start to accumulate teeny tiny plastic particles in our own bodies.
So it's pretty clear to see that micro plastics are an issue, and they come from a variety of sources, including our clothes.
Up to 700,000 microplastic fibres are released from a single clothes wash.
That's a staggering number.
There needs to be a LOT more research done into this, and manufacturers are already working on producing filters for washing machines to capture microfibres, but whilst we're waiting for policy and technology to catch up, what can we do about the problem in our own homes?
As with most things we start to look into around sustainable living, there isn't an easy answer, but here are some ideas to help reduce the amount of microfibres reaching your home:
Make sure your machine is full - the more room clothes have to move around, the more likely it is that microfibres will break off.
Choose a gentle cycle and lower temperatures to keep your clothes in good condition.
Tumbledrying increases the fragility of our clothes, and increases microfibre shedding in the next wash.
There are some microfibre capturing bags (GUPPYFRIEND) and devices (Coraball) that you can put into your machine that might be worth investigating. These sound like the perfect solution, but at present they don't capture 100% of the microfibres, and there is still the problem of disposing of them once you clean out your bag - the advice is to put them in your landfill bin, but I have to confess that I am concerned they may them simply be washed out of the landfill sites and into the waterways when it rains.
I'm going to do some digging and let you know what I find out!
Synthetic fibres like polyester are made from petroleum, and the fibres they shed are plastic.
Choosing natural fibres like cotton, linen and hemp when you are buying new clothes can help to reduce the amount of microplastics shed with each wash.
These were once hailed as the eco-friendly fix all for cleaning as they reduced the need for harsh cleaning chemicals, however little did we know then each time we washed our microfibre cloths and tea towels, teeny tiny bits of plastic were breaking off and ending up in the oceans.
Know we do know, it's time to ditch them.
Look for natural alternatives - I've ordered a couple of these heavy duty none sponges, I'll let you know how I get on!
Did you know about microfibres?
What shocks you most about them?
And what will you commit to doing in your home to help?
Do comment below to let me know!
We all know that plastic pollution is a problem, and things like the "Big 4" single use plastics are there for us all to see and to take action on.
But not all plastic is as visible... Take your humble cuppa for instance, do you know that the majority of teabags actually contain plastic in the glue that they use to seal the teabags. Anyone who has composted teabags in the past might well have seen the 'teabag ghosts' they leave behind.
And you might well be thinking "does it really matter if it's such a teeny tiny amount?" but YES!
As a nation of tea-drinkers, here in the UK we brew up 6 BILLION cups of tea each year, which equates to about 150,000kg of polypropylene plastic 'glue' - the weight of 100 cars!
When I first heard about this, I decided to take action, and made the switch to loose leaf tea. Only to really struggle to find a loose leaf tea that didn't come wrapped in plastic!
Just in case you're having the same struggle (and when it comes to tea, I can't go without, and the struggle is very much real...) here's some suggestions for 100% plastic-free tea...
If you're a herbal tea drinker then DIY tea may be the way to go.
Making a cuppa with loose leaf tea is a slightly different proposition to simply slinging a bag in a mug, but I have to admit that I do quite like something of the ceremony about it!
There are lots of options - try out some of these:
What's your solution for plastic-free tea..?
Do share in the comments below and let me know 🙂
This is a super simple recipe, that I now use as my all round general cleaning spray, both in the kitchen, and the bathrooms.
I have a fairly lackadaisical approach to cleaning, and am not overly concerned at the thought of a few germs here and there around the house, so I am happy with the somewhat weaker anti-bacterial effects of vinegar compared with conventional chemical cleaning products. I am of the opinion that today’s harsh anti-bacterial cleaners actually mean that we over-clean, and that a completely sterile environment is not good, either for us, or for the environment.
Do be aware that vinegar and marble surfaces do not mix. So for those of you with solid marble worktops (?!) might want to avoid it.
Oh, and the smell.
It is definitely less ‘chip shop’ vinegar using this citrus version than just neat vinegar, but yes, it does still smell of vinegar. I don’t mind the smell, and it does fade pretty quickly, but if you object strongly to the smell of vinegar, this may not be the natural cleaning remedy for you!
This is such an easy ‘recipe’, that I do feel a little fraudulent spinning it out into a whole blog post…
In the Kitchen
- Use as an all-purpose spray
- Great for cleaning out the fridge, and wiping out the bin, as it has good anti-odour properties.
- Works very well on stainless steels taps and sinks, and hard water marks
- Use in conjunction with bicarbonate of soda to make a paste to clean the oven
In the Bathroom
- Again, use it as an all-purpose spray
- I use it to clean the loos: spray liberally all around the toilet bowl, and then sprinkle on some bicarb and leave it do it’s thing while you clean the rest of the bathroom. Give it a good scrub with a loo brush and then flush
- Great for hard water marks on taps, and any metal fittings
Works brilliantly on soap scum-I spray it on and then give it a scrub with an old vegetable brush (or a toothbrush for hard to reach areas)
There you go, I told you it was easy!
Are you already a vinegar convert? Do let me know if you give this a try-I love to hear about natural cleaning wins!
One million plastic bottles are produced every single minute.
Of the bottles bought in 2016, less than half were collected for recycling. And of those only 7% were turned into new bottles.
Those that weren't collected for recycling end up in landfill, where we know now that they will take hundreds and hundreds of years to break down, and will never truly degrade, or they will end up polluting our landscapes and waterways, contributing the huge issue of plastic pollution that we are only now starting to wake up to.
I’m sure you don’t need to me to tell you that re-usable bottles are the answer!
My default setting after our year buying nothing new is always to look for something secondhand in the first instance - and whilst I acknowledge that a second hand water bottle might not sound especially appealing, I’m willing to bet that there are brand new bottles that end up being donated to charity shops.
If second-hand isn't for you, or if you have no luck then here are five of the best new re-usable bottles to try:
Stainless steel, BPA free and in a range of different sizes and types.
They have insulated bottles as well, and you can buy caps and tops separately (always good if you lids have a habit of disappearing!)
These stylish bottles keep your drink cold for up to 24hrs and as a brand they are on a "mission to accelerate the adoption and everyday use of reusable products". They have a range of insulated tumblers and food pots too.
If you run out of water while you're out and about, make sure you've downloaded the Refill App to find a cafe, restaurant or shop that will refill your bottle near you. Or just go in and ask!
Have you already got a re-usable bottle?
Have I missed out your favourite brand?
Do come and share a picture of your favourite water bottle, AND your top tips for remembering to take it out with you (!) in the Sustainable Life Facebook group 🙂
Well, I guess the obvious answer is that we need a supply of fresh clean water to drink, otherwise, not to be too blunt about it, we'll die. We also need it to irrigate our crops, and for our livestock - it really is the planet's lifeblood.
Here in the UK and the rest of the Western world it can be really easy to take that fresh clean water for granted - it's there, at the turn of a tap whenever we need it. But this isn't the case in other parts of the world, and might not actually be something that even us privileged Westerners can take for granted in the future.
Demand for clean water is growing with the increase in our global population, at exactly the same time as our reserves are starting to dwindle. Many of the planet's rivers are becoming polluted due to industry, and fresh water may well end up being an increasingly scarce resource.
All pretty scary stuff, but the good news is that we an individuals can take small, easy steps to conserve water by using less in our homes, all of which leaves more in the 'global water pool' to share around.
Here are 5 easy steps you could take this week!
Depending on where you live and how often you empty it, a water butt could save you about 5000 litres of water a year!
Even small sheds can have their own water butt - basically as long as it's got a sloping roof, it's good!
Use the water from your water butt to water your plants, and also to wash your car.
Local councils and water companies will often have subsidised water butts available. The other option is to put a 'shout out' on your local Freecycle or Freegle page.
Have a bucket by the side of the shower that you use to collect the water that would otherwise just run straight down the drain whilst you're waiting for the shower to warm up.
You can then use this water to flush the loo, or to water the garden.
Basically, if it's just a wee, don't worry about flushing everytime.
I know this one might not be for everyone, but by and large it's something we adhere to in our house - the children perhaps a little too religiously, as I do worry they don't even flush when they visit friend's houses...
Popping a 'hippo' water saver in the cistern of your loo can save up to 3 litres of water with every flush!
The other alternative is to fill a 2L bottle with water and use this instead.
The hippo, or the filled bottle simply take up space in your cistern, so it stops filling earlier than it would otherwise - simples!
Which of these will you do this week?
Do leave a comment below and let me know!
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Renewable energy seems to really have the bit between it's teeth now, which is fabulous news. It has gone from contributing 9% of our electricity mix in 2009, to 25% in 2018 and in 2017 more renewable energy was added to the 'global grid' than energy from fossil fuels.
In this episode I'm chatting to Tom Steward who is one of the energy boffins (and very lovely with it!) at Good Energy. It's a fascinating conversation about the renewable energy sector in general, and about Good Energy and their 'good approach' to energy, business and everything that they do.
I'm sure I'm probably teaching you all to suck eggs here, and that everyone is already a convert to re-usable cups, and always remembers to take their own ( 😉 ) with them when they think they might need a coffee fix, but just in case...
1. TAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE
Yes, I freely admit that this doesn't really have the same allure of a posh coffee, but it doesn't have the price tag either. If I am ever travelling by train, I usually take a thermos of coffee with me to drink on the way, but it is a bit of a pain then lugging the empty flask around with me for the rest of the day.
2. UPCYCLED JAM JAR
If you really want to be down with the kids, then using an old (cleaned out!) jam jar is the way to go for your re-usable coffee cup. It costs you nothing (assuming you've bought and eaten the jam/marmalade etc anyway), and has the advantage of the lid that you can put on when you have drunk your coffee, so that the dregs don't spill all over the contents of your bag.
The downsides however would be I would imagine it is quite hot to hold once it is full of coffee (this can be overcome by DIY solutions like this one, or you can knit/crochet yourself a hand protector thing), and that being made of glass, it might be prone to breakage in your bag.
3. STANDARD REUSABLE MUG
You can usually pick these up from charity shops if you keep your eye out, saving the planet the resources needed to make a brand new one. Some of them are insulated to help keep your drink hot, and you can pretty much take your pick of designs and colours.
If you don't fancy a second-hand one, then try an Ecoffee cup, made from organic bamboo.
4. KEEP CUP
Keep Cups were originally designed by Melbourne cafe owners, and are specifically made to be 'barista friendly'. They have since sold over 3 million cups, and have plastic versions, as well as glass ones. I think they are still made in Australia, so getting a cup from the other side of the world might not be the most sustainable option, but they really do seem to have put a lot of thought into making their cups as eco-friendly as possible. They have set up UK warehouses, which lessens the impact of the shipping and distribution of them.
Hubby bought me one of these when they were running a Kickstarter campaign. It's collapsible which means that I find it easier to carry round with me all the time without really noticing it taking up lots of space in my bag.
These are made in the USA, so again possibly not the most sustainable option, but they do win out for convenience.
I'm super excited about these and may well be getting some to gift at Christmas time. They're made from recycled disposable coffee cups, are insulated, AND leak-proof!
I'm not really a coffee drinker, but I am something of a tea-aholic, and my cup has helped me avoid unnecessary waste when I have been out with the family (usually at events where there isn't an option for sitting down with my drink).
Do you have a favourite re-usable cup? It might be be fun to find out who has the oldest re-usable cup still in use! Do let us know your re-usable coffee cup tips in the comments.