environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 4

Copy of Copy of Waste Free Lent

Another week has gone by, and the lessons I have learnt again are that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I really do have to get more organised and remember to take food and drink with me when I go out! I have, however, got into the habit of taking a reusable cup with me everywhere I go and find most places are more than happy to use it. In fact, one place I got coffee from offered me a discount on my coffee for providing my own cup – win!

I’m not going to give you a day by day breakdown this week – last week was so manic I can barely remember what I did when, but I will share some wins and some dilemmas!

Wins: I had both a 40th birthday and Mother’s Day to negotiate this week, but didn’t do too badly on the waste production. For the 40th I bought a couple of knitting pattern books (the birthday girl is obsessed with knitting!) and put in a bottle of my home-made redcurrant gin. For my Mum, I bought a selection of posh tonic waters in glass bottles, and again put in a bottle of my home-made red currant gin. So very little waste. I then reused gift bags I had received for my own birthday a few weeks ago.

The bright spring days have highlighted that I have neglected cleaning my windows over winter! The reason for tIMG_20160304_150848his became clear when I tried to find some glass cleaner and discovered I didn’t have any. Now, in a perfect waste free world, I would use white vinegar and water to clean my windows, but I didn’t even have a spare spray bottle to use to do it. I did, however, have some old stock of Eco2Life spray bottles and refills from when I was a Wikaniko rep. Some were glass cleaners, so I opened one and used it. I was impressed and it smelt better than white vinegar too. I have added the rest to my website at a knock down price, in case you want to try them yourself!

Fails: I am really struggling with buying bananas and coffee. My local supermarket only does Fairtrade bananas in plastic bags. I could drive for half an hour to visit a Sainsbury’s, as ALL their bananas are Fairtrade, the loose ones, the value ones etc.. The only low plastic coffee I can find is also not Fairtrade (although I buy most of our coffee in bulk, the lids of the tins it comes in are still plastic). I am passionate about Fairtrade, I believe those that grow my food and drink should earn a fair wage and have access to education and healthcare. Any tips?

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Waste Free Lent Week 3

Copy of Waste Free Lent (1)Well, we are almost half way through, and I still feel an awfully long way from being waste free! Lots of people and blogs have given me tips, although a fellow waste warrior and mum and I both agreed there was a dearth of blogs written by parents of children, where all adults work outside the home. Lots of the tips seem to involve having the time to do your weekly shop in half a dozen different shops, whilst making pasta from scratch!

There have been some small breakthroughs this week though!

Monday : One of the reasons I am so bad at taking lunch with me when I’m out at work is the perceived amount of time it will take to make it. Monday, though, I was going to a meeting that required me to bring a dish to share. So Sunday evening I made a mixed salad. I knew one of the delegates was vegan, so wanted to take something she could eat. I shredded a red cabbage, finely chopped some celery and made carrot matchsticks with a julienne maker I’d bought thinking it was a potato peeler! I chucked in a handful of raisins and a handful of mixed nuts. Then I made some jam-jar vinaigrette, which I kept in the jam jar until lunchtime. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes and I’d made a tasty, filling and nutritious lunch that had the added advantage of using up some of the veg in the veg bag!


Tuesday : I’d made so much of the salad for Monday, that I had plenty left over for lunch today. It made me realise that I could make a big batch of salad at the start of the week and just add different protein and dressings as the week went on for variety. I also did some baking for a sling meet. I discovered I could get “baking fat” in foil blocks rather than plastic tubs, for less money than the marg I had been buying and with the added benefit of it being dairy-free so our milk allergic and vegan parents could have it to!

Wednesday : I realised that I am going to have to drink more tap water. Most of what I choose to drink comes in plastic bottles, and the glass bottled alternatives are a lot more expensive. In addition, we don’t have a milk man, so I have no choice but to get milk in plastic bottles. I can’t give up the milk in my coffee, but I have given up drinking it as a drink, and if I’m thirsty I have a glass of water rather than squash or juice. This will be better for my teeth as well as better for the environment. I do find water a bit bland though, so think I need to experiment with putting fruit in my water bottle.

Thursday : I failed. I was too chicken to use my reusable coffee cup when I got a drink at the park to keep warm! In large chain coffee shops I can ask no problem, as I know my cup is the right size for their medium coffees and as they sell reusable cups for this purpose, I know they don’t mind. This cafe though is a small family owned one and only do coffees in really small cups, I was worried they’d think I was trying to get more coffee than I’d paid for so didn’t ask! 

Friday : Another drinking cup fail. We went to the cinema, and ordering a drink is just a habit. I need to get out of the habit, but also get a reusable soda cup for when I do just fancy a cold drink out and about!

Saturday/Sunday : It was the middle child’s birthday party and I was trying to learn lessons from the plastic filled party her brother had had. We still had some party bags left from her brother’s party, but got foil covered lollies for the sweets, a slice of birthday cake in napkins left from another party. Then we made headbands from a craft kit as part of the party and they went in! I also didn’t buy plastic “party” tableware. Instead, I got my proper tea service out, with matching tea plates, cups and saucers. The kids thought they were having a real treat and the table looked fab, with no waste!

Waste free birthday tea

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Waste Free Lent – Week 2

Copy of Waste Free LentIf I have learnt one thing over the last week of trying to live waste free is that I need to get more organised. Being caught on the hop makes for a very difficult time trying to find low waste solutions!

I am also compiling a list of things to buy when my self-imposed spending embargo is lifted. I still believe the best way to reduce my waste is to limit what I buy in general, and to that end I will wait until Lent is over to purchase anything. However, on my shopping list are: a metal razor (for years I’ve wondered how to get away from plastic razors, now I know!), wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, net bags for fruit and veg and a reusable soda cup!

Monday: I was feeling good about the fact that I was in the craft shop and ONLY bought what I needed for Messy Church (I am a craft supplies and stationary addict!). But, I was out longer than intended and had brought no food or drink with me. Luckily, I am a northern lass and managed a Greggs pasty and a tin of diet coke. All recyclable packaging. Hurrah!

Tuesday: I began to realise that habits are hard to break. I took the children out for the day and took a packed lunch, with crisps and cartons of juice. It did at least allow me to have a frank conversation with the children about waste and recycling. We sorted our waste into recyclable and not. The venue had paper and can recycling, and we opted to take our juice boxes home as our kerbside collection recycles tetrapack.

Wednesday: Chocolate bar wrappers and a plastic tray waste as we ate up one of our remaining selection boxes on the drive down to nana’s house. However, I am not feeling guilty about waste created by goods already purchased as waste in the house is still waste and we may as well use the products in the way they were intended!

I also made stock with the remains of the chicken. I have frozen it in icecube trays to replace the plastic intensive “stock pots” I use for slow cooking. Now I just need to work out how to make my own “flavour pots”.homemade stock pots

Thursday: Actually was a waste free day! We had a lovely day out and lunch at a friend’s house. She had made pasta sauce from leftovers and desert was home-made ice cream! A total treat and made me consider a bigger freezer and an icecream maker 😉

Friday: You can’t buy birthday cakes without plastic. I could have made one, but I wasn’t home, so was reliant on the supermarket.

Saturday: Once again fell foul of a badly planned packed lunch. Cakes in plastic packaging. Must do better.

Sunday: Was amazed in the supermarket – needed baking fat. I usually buy Stork and reuse the box, but found I could buy supermarket’s own in butter wrapping. However, I’m not sure “foil” as it is described is better as it is not recyclable. Can anyone tell me what it actually it is?

It’s getting better. Let’s see how much less waste I can produce next week!

environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 1

waste free lent blog week 1Just before the start of Lent, I read an interesting article inciting people to give up plastic instead of chocolate. As someone who both worries about the amount of waste I create, and preferring Lenten fasts to make me think, I gave it some serious consideration.

Then I looked around my house and went into blind panic. I read a few blogs on giving up plastic waste and panicked even more. It just seems so hard. I have so  many questions – like how do you wash your hair, let alone dye it, clean your teeth, buy meat, or pasta…

I still wanted to reduce my waste and really think about the waste I was producing though. So here is what I am going to do, post a new thing I did to reduce my waste each day of Lent (40 days if you don’t include Sundays).

So here we go:

Day 1: I hereby undertake to buy nothing new before the end of Lent. I decided this, then went for a meeting with a potential new volunteer in an out of town shopping centre. It was amazing how hard it was to walk past the special offers, and displays. Our whole society is based around encouraging us to buy more, consume more, create more waste.

Day 2: One of my bad waste habits is drinks when out and about. Whether it is coffee in a take out cup, or fizzy pop in a single use plastic bottle, drinking on the hoof is a potential waste minefield. I had already swapped to taking a reusable coffee cup out with me, but today took a sports bottle of squash too. Unfortunately, I also took my toddler, who drank quite a lot of the juice and by mid-afternoon we were both thirsty again. Most of the coffee shops in our town do coffee in washable mugs, but if you want a cold drink you have the choice of disposable cups or single use bottles. I opted for a hot drink to avoid the waste, but unfortunately had to buy a drink in a single use bottle for my son. Must do better next time!

Day 3 – was quite easy to not buy anything, I just didn’t go to the shops! However, I once again struck by how difficult it is to eat meat without producing plastic waste – the bacon at lunch time came wrapped in plastic and the meatballs for dinner were on a plastic tray. I clearly need to have a chat with my local butcher about me bringing my own bags to reuse. Vegetables are easier as I get most of my veg delivered from North East Organic Growers. Although it comes in plastic carrier bags, I send these back to be refilled, so no waste there!

Day 4 – this was a massive fail on the waste production front. My son was having a belated birthday party and I failed to plan for party bags in time. This meant buying plastic bags, and plastic wrapped sweets to put in the plastic bags. In an attempt to reduce the amount single use waste in the bag, the gift I included was a small metal Hot Wheels car. A discount shop had packs of 5 for £5, so not too expensive and more useful that your average party blower or plastic snake! The kids even played with them together at the party, so clearly a win. Unfortunately the pack was also wrapped in single use plastic. Must plan better for my daughter’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  Also did my weekly fruit shop – everything comes in plastic! Resolved to find a way to bring my own bags next week – even if they are reused plastic bags and maybe shop in the my local market rather than the supermarket. Finally I bought a chicken for Sunday dinner. On the whole I buy chicken to have a low food waste week – check out my four meal chicken here (although now my toddler is eating whole portions, it’s more like a 3 meal chicken!). The cashier tried to put the chicken, which was on a plastic tray and shrink wrapped in more plastic into a plastic bag (because the law says she can without charging!). I stopped her, and gave her a reusable plastic bag to put it in, separate to my other shopping!

That brings us to Sunday, and as traditionally Sunday is a day off the Lenten fast (if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday you get 46 – so you take the 6 Sundays off). I shall pause for the week. I haven’t significantly reduced my waste this week, but I have 36 more days to go!

Tips on the following would be appreciated:

  1. How to buy meat without plastic?
  2. Eco party bag ideas?
  3. Drinking cold drinks out and about.


environment Nappies

Is it really cheaper to use cloth nappies?

One of the first questions I am often asked when talking to new parents about cloth nappies is “How much do they cost?” This is a difficult question to answer as there is a huge gap between the cheapest and the most expensive cloth nappy systems, but I always reassure them that they will save money no matter which nappies they go for.

“But, really?!” they ask, “Even with the cost of washing accounted for?”

So here is a breakdown:

For disposables:  The average child goes through 5,850 nappies in it’s lifetime. At an average of 15p per nappy that equals £877. £93 on nappy bags and £200 on wipes. Total £1170

Yes, that much!

Right, assuming 24 nappies and washing every other day:

Expensive option

mirror24 Bum Genius Freetime cost £363, 3 bamboozles and 2 wraps for nights cost £53, 30 washable wipes £18, 2 wetbags £24, bucket and accessories £50. Total £484. Washing £1 every other day for 2 years £365. Total £849

Cheaper option:

FlipOrgInsert3pk400x4005 Flip covers, 8 packs of day inserts and 2 packs of night inserts £200, wipes, wetbags, bucket and accessories £92. Total £292, plus washing
Total £657



Cheapest option

Terry Squares, junior joy supreme
Terry Squares

24 terry squares £30, 5 birth to potty wraps £55, nappy nippas £3.50, accessories £92 Total £180, plus washing Total £545




In summary, depending on which nappies you go for, you can save between £625 and £321 (although the actual amount will depend on which disposables you bought).  However, if you use your nappies for more than one child, or you sell them on when you are finished, you can save even more!


Breastfeeding – the Green option


This week is National Breastfeeding Week and the theme is Celebrating Breastfeeding. I have agonised over writing a blog post in support all week. I really want to talk about the environmental aspect of breastfeeding, but I’m always wary of posting about breastfeeding. Why? Because everytime anyone posts about the positives of breastfeeding, those who needed to formula feed get upset.

So, before I start, I will make this assertion – THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOUR BABY IS FED.

This post is not to make anyone feel guilty about circumstances, it is just food for thought for those on the fence and celebrating the awesomeness of nature.

Now, why do I think breastfeeding has anything to do with the environment? Well, here are some thoughts:

  1. 1. At it’s most basic you don’t need to buy any equipment (one of the main reasons big business is not breastfeeding friendly, it can’t make any money from it!). Whereas formula feeding requires bottles, sterilisers, bottle warmers, bottle brushes etc.. In reality, most women in the UK will use some of the equipment needed for formula feeding for expressing milk, but perhaps not as much. I managed with 2 bottles and a cold water steriliser.
  2. 2. You don’t need any external energy to prepare the feed. Boiling water to prepare feeds safely uses electricity. Sterlisers are often steam or microwave sterilisers which also use electricity.
  3. 3. Most infant formula is produced from cow’s milk and the dairy industry itself has an environmental impact. The dairy industry in the EU is responsible for destruction of habitat for natural wildlife and loss of biodiversity, pollution of waterways with nitrates, over fertilisation of the soil by manure causing build up of chemicals and air pollution caused by methane (yes – cow farts are an environmental problem!).
  4. 4. Packaging – it is estimated that if 50% of British mother’s fed with infant formula, then 26 million tubs of formula would be discarded every year, although some of the materials involved can be recycled, not all can or will be. In particular, there seems to be a rise in single use cartons that are discarded in general waste.
  5. 5.Turning cows milk into formula uses lots of energy. The milk is heat-treated at very high temperatures and mechanical procedures are used to remove certain aspects of the milk and to add others, then to pulverise the milk. All of this causes pollution.
  6. 6.The cans of formula have to be transported to shops and from shops to home, which also has an environmental impact.
  7. 7. Finally, the formula industry produce huge amounts of advertising material to promote their products, which in themselves have an environmental impact.

So there you go, reasons why breastfeeding is the greener option!

But as always, if you need formula to feed your baby, for whatever reason, a healthy baby and mother is most important.

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5 Reasons why I love my Mooncup!

Mooncup alternative to tampons

I love my Mooncup. I really do. Completely, totally and utterly love it. I’ve used one for about 9 years now and I hate it on rare occasions when I’ve had to go back to disposable sanitary products.

Some of you may be asking “what is a Mooncup?”. Well, a Mooncup is a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are used instead of tampons to deal with menstruation, but unlike tampons, instead of absorbing menstrual blood, the catch it. They are about the size of an egg cup, made of clinical grade silicone, and sit just inside the vagina. They collect the menstrual flow and when it’s full, you just empty it, rinse it and put it back. Simple!

The next question, I guess, is “why do you love it so much?” and the answers to that one are many!

1. They save you lots of money. I have been using the same one for 9 years (although I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding twice in that time!), so I haven’t had to buy tampons for 9 years. Even assuming I only bought one box of supermarket’s own tampons a month, I would have saved £80ish. £80 is a lot of money!

2. They save tonnes of wasted going to landfill. According to the Women’s Environmental Network, a woman will throw away between 125 and 150kg of landfill in her lifetime. (Source WEN report “Seeing Red”) Imagine if everyone stopped switched to reusables!

3. They are healthier. Tampons can and do cause toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life threatening infection. Although they are bleached white and wrapped in plastic, they are not sterile and cannot be sterilised. Menstrual cups are made of clinical grade silicone and can be sterilised either by boiling or soaking a sterilising solution such as Milton.

4. They don’t dry you out. Tampons are made of fibre and work by absorbing fluid. They don’t just absorb menstrual blood, they absorb all the moisture in the vagina, meaning they can leave you dry and uncomfortable. As menstrual cup’s collect the menstrual flow rather than absorbing them, they are not as drying.

5. Less need to change them. As they are safer, non-drying and hold loads, you can safely leave them in for up to 12 hours.

So there you have it, 5 reasons why I love my Mooncup. What do you think?

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A scatterbrained woman’s thoughts on plastic bags


Just after Christmas I went up to Glasgow to stay with family and went out sales shopping. I was a little surprised when, in Marks and Spencer, I was asked if I wanted a carrier bag for my clothing purchase, and even more surprised when I was charged 5p for it. Surprised, but not cross, quite pleased really.

When I got back to my parents-in-law, I mentioned it to them, and had to smile when both my mother- and grandmother-in-law produced small reusable bags from their handbags. I was impressed. The 5p charge was obviously working.

It made me think. I have the best intentions not to get carrier bags, I have a huge collection of reusable shopping bags. I also have a mountain of single use plastic bags from all the times I have forgotten to take my reusable bags.

The Government estimates that 8 billion carrier bags are given out in supermarkets each year. That equates to 130 per person per year. That’s 57000 tonnes of carrier bags ending up in landfill every year*. Yikes!

In October of this year England will see the introduction of a 5p charge for carrier bags at the supermarket, to bring it in line with the other countries in the UK who already charge this.  The introduction of the charge in Wales resulted in a 79% reduction in carrier bag usage.

My biggest problem is remembering to take bags with me.  If I have a carrier bag with me, I will happily use, and willingly give plastic bags back to retailers in favour of using a bag I already have. Hopefully, a 5p charge will encourage me to make sure I always have bags with me – if not the new legislation could get expensive!

What about you? Do you have any tips on plastic bag reusage for a scatterbrained mum?

*Source –