Happy New Year 2019!

It’s a year since I made my resolution to make positive changes for the environment in my every day life and started this blog to help record my journey and keep me on track.

So how have I done? Well in the last few months, I’ve not updated my blog, but I’ve been busy elsewhere in life. I think I made a lot of the easiest changes early on in the year and since then it’s been harder to think of things to write about, but I have kept plugging away in small ways, some of which I’ll mention in this post.

Although I will admit to becoming disheartened when I see the waste that I personally can’t control (for example the vast amounts of plastic wrapping from drinks being unloaded from a lorry at a pub), I think the general public have also become much more visibly and vocally active on behalf of the planet. Let’s celebrate the fantastic news stories we see almost every day now, such as the cancellation of this waste of hundreds of thousands of balloons for a New Years party.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

There were definitely excesses at Christmas and I’m sure some of them could’ve been avoided if we’d tried harder, but we did make certain efforts.

One of my favourite things was making our own wrapping paper. We bought cheap recycled, recyclable brown paper which we used to wrap most of our presents in (there was a bit of “real” wrapping paper left from last year as well). Even just using this alone looks really stylish, and a few gifts we added (reused) ribbons to give a bit of flair. But I also painted a length of the paper with Jack which looked so lovely and personal when we wrapped up the presents. I’m definitely going to do it again for Birthdays and Christmas, it’s fun, easy and very unique!

I also carefully separated recyclable paper, non-recyclables such as sellotape and embossed paper and so on as we went along on Christmas Day. It was easy because Jack wanted to play with everything as he opened it! It took 3 days to get through all the presents!

I intend to do what we used to do at home when we were little and save the Christmas cards to make gift tags for next year’s presents.

… and beautiful environmentally friendly Christmas presents!

One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was something I’ve been wanting for a few months, but I’ve made sure I got every last shave I could out of my old blunt plastic razor first! Yes, that’s right, a gorgeous old-fashioned safety razor made by Bambaw and purchased by my loving husband from Unwrapped Zero-Waste shop in Crookes.

I’ve already shaved my lower legs and armpits with it and escaped intact!!

A big year ahead

A lot is going to change this year because we are expecting our second baby in April! This is definitely going to make it difficult to keep the waste down. We’ve potty trained Jack early to cut down the amount of nappies we’re using. We now only use one or two a day (although the craziness of Christmas has really caused him to regress!), but we completely failed at getting him back into reusables. Hopefully this time round we will keep the baby in reusables for longer. We mostly gave up on them before when Jack started at the childminder at 8 months old, but this time when I go back to work, the baby will go to the nursery where Jack is now, and they are completely up for using any kind of nappies, which is very encouraging.

2018: A wonderful year of small changes

Diet: I’ve not eaten meat (with the exception of finishing bits up) since Earth Day which was in about March or April. I’m still eating fish, eggs and dairy. I think I’ll probably eventually cut down on some of those things too, especially after hearing some awful statistics about by-catch in the fishing industry, but that will probably have to wait until all the big changes that come with having a newborn are out of the way!

Shopping: I’m a lot more aware of alternatives and avoid certain things that come wrapped in plastic. I’m definitely not perfect in this area yet, but better than a year ago. It is certainly made easier living in a city which now has at least four completely zero-waste shops and others that encourage zero-waste lifestyles. We still love our fruit and veg box and get very little plastic with that!

Personal hygiene: I think this is one of the easiest areas to change and I am still sticking with bars for soap, shampoo and deodorant! We have a squirty soap in the kitchen, but we refill it, along with other things like washing up liquid and fabric conditioner (note: don’t put fabric conditioner in plastic milk bottles! It is corrosive!)

The next change?

We still haven’t got round to getting our milk delivered here, although we used to at a previous address. I intend to contact the local dairy this week to sort that. They deliver in glass bottles that get reused, so that will cut down on another regular single use plastic.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2019. I’m not sure how often I’ll continue to update the blog, but I’ll certainly keep it open just in case I have any exciting ideas to share!

Making my own beeswax wraps

In the past few weeks I’ve had a go at making my own beeswax wraps. These seem to be a very popular product at the moment among the low-waste community as an alternative to things like cling film and aluminium foil for covering and wrapping food (although they can’t be used when heating food).

Since I’m also a bit crafty and have lots of scraps of old fabric, I decided to have a go at making my own. There are lots of sets of instructions online and they all made it sound really easy. Well, it was quite easy, but I found I needed to try a few times before I found a way to do it which I felt confident with.

What do I make them from?

There are literally only two necessary ingredients:

  • Fabric scraps
  • Beeswax
  • The fabric should be pure cotton if at all possible, although I wasn’t 100% sure with all the pieces I used. I sourced beeswax pellets from Sheffield Skincare Company in Crookes, although blocks of beeswax are also available and in this case it can be grated onto the fabric.
  • Some instructions also suggest including some pine resin to increase the stickiness and jojoba oil for antibacterial properties, but these are not necessary and are only available in much larger quantities than you are likely to need for only making a few wraps.
  • To iron or to oven?

    There seem to be broadly two methods for making beeswax wraps: melting the wax onto the fabric using an iron or doing it in the oven.

    Initially, I tried to do it in the oven. I found that it was difficult to figure out exactly how much wax I needed to sprinkle on and I had to keep adding a bit more. I found the instruction I’d read “to spread the melted wax with a paintbrush” to be utterly useless, as it sets pretty much as soon as you take it out of the oven. Now I just have a useless paintbrush stuck together with wax! I also had the oven on very low, about 70•C. This is important because you can easily burn the wax. However, I think that at such low temperatures, the oven isn’t particularly accurate at telling you what the temperature is. I actually had to slowly increase mine till it said it was 100•C before it was melting reasonably quickly.

    When I asked for help online, many people said they preferred the ironing method. This is also recommended to refresh any wraps, including bought ones, from time to time, as the wax will eventually crack and wear away in some places. You just need to iron the fabric (with wax pellets if you’re making new stuff) between two sheets of greaseproof paper on a very low setting. I also struggled with this! I think I was impatient and turned the iron up too high, as then a lot of wax leaked out from the fabric to the edges of my greaseproof sandwich, and there was probably not enough left on the fabric.

    I’ve had a few more goes and now I have the hang of it, I think I prefer using the oven. Once you know what temperature your oven needs to be set on, and approximately how much wax to use, it’s a very quick process. You can easily add a few more pellets if you notice bare patches.

    Whichever method you use, once the wax is melted, quickly whip the newly coated fabric off the greaseproof paper and hold it so that it air dries and stiffens flat. This only takes a minute or so. You might get a bit of wax stuck to you fingers, but that’s ok, you can just peel it off and reuse.

    So what should my new wraps look like and what can I use them for?

    Well, I think I was a bit confused about exactly what they’d be. They are self-adhesive, but not nearly so much as cling-film. They are fabulous for covering bowls of left-overs or wrapping up small snacks, like flapjacks. I found the slightly thicker fabrics, previously used for quilting projects, to be better in general. In the image below, you can see a Pyrex jug with some gravy in it and a bowl with a extra portion of whatever we had for tea being saved for my little boy the next day. They are both well covered with the wraps and were then put in the fridge. You can see another wrap on the draining board in the background.

    To get the best use out of them, take your time moulding them, warming the beeswax with your hands so it becomes more pliable. Realise that it won’t necessarily stick like clingfilm does, though. I’m not sure I’d just wrap my sandwiches in them and nothing else, but I love them for coving dishes and wrapping small snacks so that they are wrapped in multiple layers.

    To look after them, simply wash in cool soapy water (so that the wax doesn’t melt) and air dry. From time to time refresh the wax as described above. I hope they will last a good while!

    Other stuff round-up…

    Have you noticed I’m being a bit useless with the regular blog posts? Sorry about that. Busy life and all. But also, I feel I probably covered a huge amount of (at least the easy) stuff in my early blogs.

    Something I’ve just bought (thanks again Unwrapped Shop in Crookes) is Denttabs, chewable toothpaste tablets with fluoride so it comes without a tube and should not negatively impact your dental health! I’ve only used about 4 so far, but I’m getting along fine with them.

    I’d also like to highlight a fantastic effort by Millhouses Park Cafe. As if I needed another reasons to love Millhouses Park, check out these photos of a sign and bin at the cafe yesterday 😁

    And finally, because I can laugh at myself and because I worry what I’m doing isn’t enough and never will be, here’s a fun page from Viz Magazine that I saw in a tweet by one of my heroes, Chris Packham.

    I’m back!

    Ahhh! It’s over a month since I wrote a blog post! Sorry for the long absence. I’ve been busy with general life things, going on holiday and getting out and about a bit more in the warm (hot!!) weather.

    Today I’ve got some good and bad observations from my holiday in Cornwall and I FINALLY made it to Unwrapped, the Zero Waste Shop in Crookes, Sheffield. I’ve started posting some of my pictures on my Instagram account, @baddamy, so if you want more regular short updates from me, that might be a good place to look.

    My husband has a subscription to National Geographic magazine and recently they did a whole issue on the problems arising from plastic waste. They used it to launch their new paper wrap. Previously, the magazine was posted out wrapped in clear plastic, which is not even recyclable. Incidentally, even if you don’t get the magazine, follow NatGeo on Instagram! The images are amazing and show the best (and sometimes the worst) of our planet.

    Fun in the Cornish sun

    At the beginning of June, we spent a wonderful week in Cornwall, which of course was accompanied by lots of ice cream. I have to say I was slightly disappointed on the way down, though, when we stopped at Killerton, a National Trust property near Exeter. We are NT members, I generally I find them great, for example supplying biodegradable packaging and cutlery for take away items. However, the Dairy House ice cream shop at Killerton only had disposable pots, which I’m pretty sure are not recyclable, for ice cream. There was no option of cones or bowls that would be reused. When I queried the lady selling them, she said she’d given up on cones as half of them would be broken when the delivery arrived, but to me that indicates the need for a new supplier rather than ditching the cones altogether. It surprises me that I see loads of people using disposable cups for ice cream when they have the option of a cone (which I quite like to eat, never mind that it reduces the waste), but it’s a shame to not even have the option. Perhaps I should have been more principled and not had any ice cream at all, but it’s hard when you’re on holiday!

    We headed straight to the local chippie when we finally arrived. It’s a regular holiday destination for us, so we knew it was good one! They have both indoor and outdoor seating areas. Jack needed to stretch his legs after the long journey and the weather was nice enough, so we opted for outdoors. What we hadn’t realised, was that that meant buying take-away, rather than from the restaurant menu and no apparent way to avoid the large amounts of waste including an individual polystyrene tray for each fish and each portion of chips! So annoying!! When we went back later in the week, we opted for indoors and were happy to see that they’d at least made the effort to provide paper straws for the drinks.

    It was a completely different experience when we visited the Eden Project, which is all about recycling and eco-friendliness! Check out the vast range of bins available (stations with all these options were all over site). There is even one for coffee cups and I believe that Cornwall is one of the few parts of the country where these can be recycled.

    Ironically, though, the day we were there, they were setting up the stage for Gary Barlow to perform in the evening, and he later hit the national headlines for firing plastic ticker taper out our cannons over the beautiful site! I suppose in a way this may have been a good thing, bringing the issue to the attention of other performers and outdoor performance spaces.

    Unwrapped is awesome!

    It’s several months since I first wrote about a zero waste shop opening in Sheffield and I was so excited about it. Unwrapped in Crookes has been open for a while now, but I’ve only just recently made it there!

    Jack is now the proud owner of the small pink One Green Bottle water bottle at the top of the above picture. On the same shelf, you can also see a plastic free safety razor that I’m desperate to buy, and probably will the next time I make it there! On the lower shelves are lots of toiletry and cosmetic items.

    Unwrapped, of course, has refills of various cereals and grains as well as a lovely range of oils and vinegars. One thing which I’ve never seen anywhere else is a “grind your own peanut butter” machine! Would love to have a go with that some time!

    Here you can see teas in the background. I bought some green and some mint, as well as two infusers, on the left of the table. I love the ranges of nappies, sanitary and breast pads and beeswax wraps they stock.

    Beeswax wraps are something I’m very excited about at the moment, but I’m actually going to try making my own! I bought some natural beeswax from another shop in Crookes, Sheffield Skincare Company, and I have loads of scraps of material from old quilting projects! I can’t wait to give it a go, so hopefully I’ll be blogging about that soon.

    So, until then (which I certainly hope won’t be as long as the period between the last posts!), keep being clean and green! I know it can be hard in the summer heat, I certainly cut corners more. But I feel that I’m still making good progress compared to where I was a year ago.

    What can I put in the recycling?!

    A few weeks ago we had Earth Day, which prompted lots of excellent articles and lots of individuals pledging to make changes to their lifestyle for the sake of our planet. It was then that I took the decision to finally take the plunge and stop eating meat (I’m just pescatarian for now, but this is a big deal, especially when I have to refuse the gorgeous lamb and apricot curry my mother-in-law cooks!).

    I was pleased to hear that the UK government are considering a bottle deposit scheme for plastic bottles. According to that article, only 43% of plastic bottles are recycled currently in this country, which is pretty disgusting given it is made so easy for us. Most (possibly all) local authorities collect plastic bottles for recycling in their kerbside collections and recycling bins are often found in town centres and places of work as well.

    However, it’s only since I started writing this blog (and have become involved in zero waste groups on social media) that I realised that not all of my recyclable plastic will actually be recycled from the kerbside collection!

    It’s all recyclable but only some of it will be recycled?!

    Yep. At least that’s how it is where I live (in Sheffield). All local authorities have their own arrangements for recycling. In Sheffield, on alternating weeks we have our black bins (refuge) and blue bins (mixed recycling) collected. However, the only plastic that they will recycle from this mixed recycling is bottles!

    I only just found this out, and the following picture is the non-bottle recyclable plastic that I collected in the first couple of weeks that I sorted them out separately. It’s a bit embarrassing how much there is when I see it like this.

    You’re looking at things like yogurt pots and trays that fresh food of many types came in. There were also some humous pots, but you’ll see shortly why I took those out! Bear in mind that this still doesn’t include the numerous plastic bags that items like fruit and veg often come in, which are not recyclable at all.

    The good news is that we can still recycle the things in my picture in Sheffield, we just have to take it to a recycling point such as those you might see in some supermarket car parks. The nearest one for us is at our local park in Stannington.

    You can actually recycle loads of things here, including those things that are collected in the kerbside collection and other items such as clothing, cartons and foil. The bins that the plastic goes in were all overflowing, and as you can see there were loads of them. I have no idea how often they are emptied, but I hope they were soon after we’d been.

    I’m so happy I found this fact out and disappointed it took me so long. The truth is, if you aren’t going to take this kind of plastic to a recycling point, you’re better off putting the items in the black bin. This is because when they sort the recycling and remove the things that can’t be recycled they are more likely to remove some of the things that should be recycled as well. Really, though, you should take them to these recycling points. There is probably one within a couple of miles of where you live.

    Another thing about the waste disposal system in Sheffield is that the non-recyclables are not sent to landfill, but instead to an incinerator. This allows many buildings in the town, including the one I work in, to be heated by the Energy Recovery Facility. It also allows for some of the pollutants to be absorbed and neutralised, which is not possible with the gases that leak as landfill decomposes. However, it does also mean that the wonderful compostable alternatives to single use plastics that are now being produced might not be so great as they seem in areas like this. Although they will not result in micro-plastic particles being left behind, they do not get the opportunity to decompose and will be burnt in the incinerator with the rest of the rubbish.

    For many reasons, it is clear that we need simply need to use less plastic. It’s not acceptable that we have so much single use plastic packaging. There just is not the capacity to be able to recycle it all and even if there was, recycling is not itself a perfect system which produces the same kinds of products again. Every time plastic is recycled, some new plastic has to be added and the quality of the resulting product will still be worse than what went in. Of course, more greenhouse gases will also be produced in the process.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle. In that order.

    Environmentally friendly party bags

    Jack had his birthday party last week and I was determined to make party bags that were fun for 1 and 2 year olds but also much more environmentally friendly than usual.

    The result was two colours of home made (by my wonderful mum) play dough (for some children in the humous pots I mentioned earlier!), a wooden rolling pin, 3 metal cookie cutters and two coloured wax crayons, all in a paper bag, which were kindly given to us by Our Zero Waste Shop. They worked out at about £2 each, which was feasible for the small number of children we had, but might have been too expensive if we’d invited more. I left it a bit too last minute, but a good alternative would have been second hand plastic cutters and rollers from eBay or somewhere similar. eBay was in fact where I got the figures for Jack’s Postman Pat birthday cake (again, if I hadn’t left it too late, I might have been able to get a Pat not wearing a motorcycle helmet!).

    How easy is it to reduce our plastic usage?

    I found this BBC article interesting and encouraging. The reporter (mother of a young family) first tried to go plastic free for a month a decade ago and now has given it another try to see what the differences are. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’d encourage you to at least read the last section, as I think it’s good to hear that due to national schemes and general attitudes, things have changed for the better in the last 10 years. I would not currently be able to confidently say that I’ll ever be “zero waste”, but I do think the small changes I have made in the last few months are a step in the right direction at least.

    Also bear in mind that the information in this blog post about the recycling scheme is specific to Sheffield, but I would urge you to look into detail at your local scheme. I have lived here for years and didn’t properly understand what I should be putting in my bins.

    Now go and enjoy the early summer sunshine, but think carefully about the possible waste implications when you buy disposable barbecues and food and drink to eat outdoors.

    A busy few days!

    This week we’ve had my little boy Jack’s 2nd birthday. It’s been hectic! First the preparation and birthday celebrations (including a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park), then the bank holiday weekend in London. My niece will be 2 next week as well so we’ve been celebrating both of their birthdays and on Saturday night my sister and I took my mum to see Bat Out of Hell, which is her Christmas present! Plus next week we have Jack’s birthday party at home! Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about it!

    It’s going to be a bitty one again! I started writing this on the Friday evening just after we’d arrived in London and have recorded things that have stood out along the way.

    Meat-free me!

    I mentioned in my blog post about last time we came to London that I would eventually like to give up meat. Well, I’ve finally taken the plunge! I’m going Pescatarian for now, as I feel I need to take it slowly to make the adaptation as easy as possible. But even this step is going to cut my carbon footprint significantly, hooray! I’ll be completely honest with you, I know there is at least one packet of mince still in the freezer at home so I will eat that, and anything anyone makes for me if they don’t realise I’m giving up meat, but I don’t intend to buy any more meat from now on.

    Another great shop in Sheffield

    I wrote recently about some of the great low waste shopping options we have in Sheffield and I neglected to mention the fantastic Just Natural in Crookes, very close to where I used to live. Above, you can see some of the dispensers for various food items they have, and this is one of the places you can also refill your cleaning products too. (Not the best place to take a toddler if you don’t want them to pick up the delicious looking fruit and shove it straight in their mouth though!)

    Out and about

    Thursday was Jack’s birthday and I thought I was winning when I made me and Martin a delicious, healthy, low-waste and using-up-all-the-bits-in-the-fridge-before-we-go-away salad to take with us for lunch at the zoo. This turned upside down when we sat down at a picnic bench and I realised that I’m my rush to sort out Jack’s food as well and see him opening his presents, I’d forgotten to put forks in!! Luckily, when we found a cafe that had forks available, although disposable, it turned out they were compostable ones! Now I just need to make sure I put them in a compost bin that will go to an industrial composting facility.

    Crazy packaging!

    A year ago I would have been ALL over these little shampoos that were provided in our AirBnB in London. I used to collect them from wherever we stayed and keep them for other camping trips and so on. Now, though, I get how wasteful they are and I’m just avoiding them. I brought my shampoo bar in a tin and these can stay for the next visitor who decides they want them.

    In the background of this picture, you can see that there are waste-positives about our accommodation (which is lovely by the way): there are clearly labelled refuge and recycling bins. However, the main point of this picture was, of course, to highlight the not only really wasteful, but also slightly bizarre choice of packaging on the asparagus we got for tea from the local Londis!

    I stayed at my sister’s house on Saturday night, after we, and my mum, had been to see Bat Out Of Hell at the theatre (amazing by the way!). In the morning, when she was getting on with her house work and had to open up a new tub of detergent, she was amazed to see how wasteful the packaging was (and quite deceptive in terms of the amount you think you’re buying as well).

    Nice work Haringey Council!

    When we stopped for a drink and a snack at a cafe in the park on Saturday morning, we were able to responsibly dispose of our rubbish, thanks to these recycling bins; much better than you’d find in many public places in this country!

    The Nordic example

    On Sunday morning we visited the V&A Museum Of Childhood (another great tip, for children past and present). The current temporary exhibition is on Nordic Design for children, and I found a notice board which highlighted the positive relationship the Nordic peoples seem to have with their environment. No country is perfect, but I feel we could learn a lot from the Nordic countries in that respect.

    Enjoy the sun!

    As I finish off writing this post, I’m finally back at work, but what a wonderful and very hot bank holiday we’ve had! We had no food in at home, so it’s one of the rare occasions where I’ve not brought in my lunch, but I did remember a lunchbox so I could get a waste free and delicious salad from New Leaf, the salad bar at the Students’ Union.

    Hopefully this will go some way to balance the increased number of soft drinks and ice creams we bought over the weekend (although we did try to keep to cans and ice cream cones where possible).

    Let’s hope this sunshine continues and that we can manage to stay environmentally friendly while enjoying it!

    Cleaning up my mess

    Can’t believe I forgot to mention Poppy Goes Wild in my blog yesterday! This is the blog of Dom, who gave the talk I went to on Zero Waste. I’m definitely going to be following it from now on!

    Also, I did some cleaning in the bathroom with vinegar and a cloth last night and I was amazed at how well it worked. I’d already cleaned the dirtiest parts before it occurred to me to take some before and after shots and the only really bad parts I could then find are sadly where there are some bad stains that aren’t going to come out, but hopefully you get some idea of how well it worked!

    Before

    After

    I now just need to find large vats of vinegar somewhere to make it cost-effective, too!

    I love zero waste shops!

    I recently mentioned in a post how excited I was about Unwrapped, a new zero waste shop about to open in Crookes, a part of Sheffield I used to live in and still live near. The next week I found out about another one, this time opening in the Sheffield Students’ Union building, right next to where I work! Only a few days later, I found out about Zero Hero which is currently fundraising to open a similar shop as part of a Vegan Social Centre in the town and Zeds, a whole foods grocer in Netheredge. Beeches of Walkley are getting in on this movement, too, and New Roots, just across the road from the Student’s Union, has been doing it for a while!

    I thought: right, I need to check all of these places out!!

    Our Zero Waste Shop

    Our Zero Waste Shop has just opened in the main SU building at Sheffield Uni. They’re still asking for ideas for other lines, but they already have a fantastic range of products, including loose spices (see top picture AND THEY ARE SO CHEAP!!), refills for Ecoleaf cleaning products, bar soaps, alternatives to clingfilm and much of what I previously wrote about being in the main SU Shop.

    There’s a huge range of storage containers made from various materials, including ones that are guaranteed no-spill!

    In the above picture you can see just some of the loose food items that are sold by weight including just about every grain you can think of. I seriously think we’ll start getting most of our grains here or somewhere else that sells them in this way. We tend to buy rice and pasta in bulk anyway, and we have so many little bits of others that we use for particular recipes, for example to fill out salads.

    In the jars are lots of snack type items such as nuts and dried fruit. Too desperate to join in to wait till I had an empty one from home, I treated myself to a large jam jar which I intend to keep filled with these healthy snacks on my desk, to keep me away from the biscuits! It’s currently got “gourmet nut mix” in it.

    I plan on visiting some of the other shops soon and will report back on them as I do.

    Zero Waste Talk at The University of Sheffield

    I actually wrote the majority of this post whilst waiting to go in to a Zero Waste Talk, unaware that one of the speakers was Megan McGrath, the Students’ Union Development Officer who has been responsible for lots of the great changes that I’ve been blogging about recently, including, of course, the new shop!! The other speaker was Dominika Kolarova, who has massively inspired me and spurred me on. She is on a zero waste journey, but she is way ahead of me! She brought her waste from the last month in a small Kilner jar to demonstrate how much she has cut down. To get to that stage has been a process that has taken a couple of years, a huge achievement, and she gave me some ideas of where I should be focussing my efforts.

    A few weeks ago I was struggling to find things to write about, but now I feel like I have so many things to tackle and therefore to blog! I need to make sure I keep I steady and actually stick stick with the changes I make, but expect more posts soon!

    Save the forests!

    It’s been another week of good news for the environment in the UK. Following on from their announcement earlier this year that they will attempt to remove all plastic packaging from their own brand products, Iceland supermarket chain has now vowed to remove all palm oil from them as well. Palm oil is blamed for large amounts of rainforest destruction, including in places where endangered animals live, as native trees are removed to be replaced by the fast growing palms. It’s found in a surprising range of products including many packaged food and personal hygiene items. Some brands aim to source sustainable palm oil but Iceland will be abolish it completely. It will be interesting to see what they use as a replacement as alternatives are not necessarily better for the environment, it’s just that palm oil has a bad name because it is so widely produced – the trees grow incredibly quickly and it is an easy way for farmers to make money.

    Waitrose supermarket has also announced that later this year it will remove all disposable cups. They currently have a loyalty scheme where members can get a hot drink when they shop. Soon they will need to bring their own mugs to get this perk. This is a super leap for removing disposable cups with plastic lining, but there are also some disposable cups that are fully decomposable! This was good news for me this week when, the one day I decided to get a drink from Coffee Revolution at Sheffield Students’ Union just also happened to be the one day I took a different bag than usual to work so didn’t have my Campus Cup sleeve with me! Luckily, they’ve recently switched to these fully decomposable cups and haven’t adjusted their prices, so it must be a viable option for larger coffee companies. Why aren’t we seeing this in more places?!

    Who gives a crap?

    Friday was my 5th Wedding Anniversary. I’m not hugely romantic and we’re trying to save money, but I wanted to get something for Martin, my husband. The 5th Anniversary is represented by wood, and there are lots of lovely carved things available. On Etsy, many of them state that the wood is sustainably sourced, and another idea I was quite taken with was dedicating a tree through the Woodland Trust.

    In the end, though, I decided to be a little bit tight, and gift him something I was planning on buying eventually anyway with the excuse that it was “saving trees”. The main product that Who Gives a Crap sells is toilet paper, but we’d just bought a massive pack, so I ordered some tissues and kitchen towel. Sorry, Martin, but at least they have nice messages on them!

    Their standard toilet paper is recycled, but the products I bought are made from bamboo and sugarcane. The company also donate 50% of their profits to building toilets in parts of the world where not everyone has access to them.

    Hopefully, I won’t get through these very quickly as I try to use cloth alternatives to kitchen towels in most instances. I also plan to invest in some proper handkerchiefs at some point (we always had them when we were little and they never did us any harm). I will order some toilet paper when we need it, and if you go to the Who Gives a Crap website now, as I share this, they have a free trial box offer on for you to give all their products a go.

    Go save some forests!

    Things I’m loving and hating right now!

    Today we went for a lovely walk at Ladybower reservoir (enjoying the spring that seems to have finally arrived – picture below). We saw a fellow walker with a bin bag and a litter picker, picking up rubbish as he went. I thought how amazing it is that people will do that, but then how sad it is that there is rubbish there to be picked. I’m aware there are a few fantastic organised groups who go out doing litter picking around here, although it’s not something I’ve got involved in myself (not easy with a toddler). Pre-child, I used to do litter picking at Glastonbury Festival to raise money for charity in exchange for a free ticket, which is an exhausting but great way to enjoy a festival, and I’ve also done it at one of the smaller festivals in Sheffield, too.

    Anyway… today I’m not going to go into much detail, just give you a quick insight into a couple of other things that are really bugging me at the moment and a few other things that give me hope.

    Things for children

    So… magazines for children. Why must they come with plastic tat??!! I wanted to buy Jack a treat last week and a magazine seemed like a good idea. But look at the photo at the top. I think ALL the children’s magazines come with an essentially “disposable” plastic toy. I know there are one or two environment-focussed magazines for older children that don’t, but for Jack, who’s nearly two, it basically had to be a TV-based one and one of his favourite shows is “Hey, Duggee”, so we went with that magazine in the end. The plastic “clubhouse” that comes with it is extremely flimsy and I don’t expect it to last long, although he thinks it is fantastic.

    It’s also annoyed me that I’ve seen a few posts from parents and childcare experts on Facebook and Instagram recently who wax lyrically about how wonderful “natural” play is, but then post images where they are using single-use plastic for activities! One of the things that I really can’t stand is water beads or aqua bubbles or whatever you want to call them (search online if you don’t know what they are – I think they are the same, or akin to, the things that florists use). They look very pretty and children seemingly love them, but they are horrible plastic that apparently is usually thrown straight away after use.

    On the positive side for children though, there really are a huge amount of activities you can do with only natural materials. They mostly seem to love being outdoors (although do go through fussy stages where they don’t like getting dirty). Around here there seem to be a lot of great forest/outdoor playgroups and even nurseries which children can go to full time. Jack adores his nursery (and so do we), but there is a forest school near it and I’m wondering whether it might be worth getting him down on the waiting list for just one day a week to learn some different things. One of my friends has a little boy who’s nearly three and he’s been going to one since he was 12 months old. She thinks it is great for him.

    Exciting local news

    I know a few of my readers are local to Sheffield and I’m really excited about a couple of things which will be happening near me so I’m going to share them here. First of all, a new zero waste shop, Unwrapped, is opening in Crookes very soon! This seems to be just the kind of thing I’ve been looking for and on my side of town (unfortunately not within walking distance, as it would have been a few years ago, but it’s probably somewhere we can go on the way home from work).

    Secondly, this exciting Zero Waste Talk is happening soon hosted by The University of Sheffield, but open to the public. I have booked my free ticket, make sure you do too if you’re interested!

    Fantastic national news

    The government have FINALLY announced a bottle and can deposit scheme. This is something that we’ve not had in this country for years, but they are commonplace in loads of other countries. After the reported success of the carrier bag charge, it seems crazy that it’s taken this long to set the ball rolling on another “plastic tax”, but we’re there at last!

    Several supermarket chains have also recently reported that they will stop selling single use plastic straws. Not only that, but McDonald’s is due to start trialing paper straws in some restaurants from May. This is part of a wider initiative to make all packing recyclable, and eventually fully recycled itself.

    I was slightly distressed last year when I found out that teabags contain plastic! It seems crazy! But not long after making this discovery (someone told me they don’t fully break down in their compost), I saw the same fact spreading across the internet, where many people were, understandably, shocked to hear it. Now though, several brands including two of my favourites, Co-op and PG Tips have announced that they will be getting rid of the plastic in theirs, phew!

    Thanks for reading!

    Thanks for getting through this episode of my rants and rambles! If you enjoy them, don’t forget you can subscribe so you’re notified when I post something new.

    I hope to report back on the Unwrapped shop and the Zero Waste Talk soon. If you want to find out about similar things going on near to, see if there is a local Zero Waste Facebook group, or similar. Also, let me know if you’ve noticed any crazy excessive single-use plastic anywhere or if you have a favourite hope-heralding story from the news. You can leave a comment on the blog.

    It’s nearly Easter!!

    Everybody loves a celebration, particularly one that revolves around chocolate! Perhaps that’s not the original meaning of Easter, but it is certainly a big part of it now. I’m sure it’s not escaped your attention, though, how much packaging a lot of Easter eggs have.

    Earlier this week the Guardian published this article based on research by consumer group Which? in which they compared the amount and type of packaging included with the top 10 most popular eggs. They are, on average, 25% packaging by weight!!! The egg with the highest proportion is in a Thornton’s Classic Large Egg, which was a whopping 36.4% packaging!! Even the egg with the lowest proportion of the 10, the Cadbury’s Twirl Large Easter Egg has 18.8% packaging!

    I’m not going to tell you not to buy an Easter Egg, and the more positive side of the article was that almost all of the packaging (usually apart from the chocolate bar wrappers and plastic windows on the front of boxes) are recyclable at least, and in some cases made from recycled material. However, I think it’s worth baring in mind how wasteful this is and considering whether there might be an alternative. We all also know that Easter Eggs are fairly overpriced for what they are. Would we be better off getting something chocolatey but not egg shaped? Or egg shaped but not chocolatey?

    Easter egg alternatives

    Maybe you could have a go at making your own Easter eggs, or other chocolate treats. Another lovely alternative that I’ve seen a few places selling in recent years are reusable eggs, such as the adorable metal ones by Moulin Roty with pictures of their animal Grande Famille characters on. One of my favourite toy shops BabaMe has been selling these with a surprise Holtztiger wooden animal inside for children, or various ethically sourced bath products for grown ups. As this goes to press they are still available, but I can’t guarantee you’d get it by Easter Sunday (apologies for leaving the blog till the last minute)!

    And if you’re still dreaming of the perfect chocolate egg…

    …why not at least look into buying one that is ethically sourced?

    Divine Chocolate, for example have been making fabulous Fairtrade products for years. You could also look into buying chocolate from a company that has been certified as using sustainable palm oil.

    Just today I received an email with a link to this SumOfUs petition against Cadbury and Ferrero using Cocoa which is grown illegally in deforested areas including national parks in West Africa.

    Happy Easter!

    So have a wonderful long weekend, treat yourself and your loved ones, but please don’t turn a blind eye to the negative impact that our little indulgences can have.