14 September 2016

On the cloth menstrual pads

I did a little bit of maths the other day.

Earthwise medium

Simply because my period came and with it the inevitable use of pads.

I have been using the Earthwise Menstrual Pads and 0waste.market Cloth menstrual pads and I must admit they are brilliant!

I was afraid they would slip, after all, there is no adhesive of any kind of them, but that has never happened, and with two clips it's easy to adjust them to different widths of lingerie.

Another thing I was worried about was heat. For some reason, cotton seemed warmer to me than plastics used in disposable towels. And again I was wrong. Yes, they are warm, but they are also so much more pleasant to touch it's hard to describe. A friend of mine actually told me that plastic ones always chafed her skin, while cotton doesn't. And frankly the heat turned out to be in line with my body heat, so absolutely normal.

One more fright I had: spillage. The cloth wings lack absorbency. They're there only to keep the pad in place. But again, they work great. It really is very easy to tell when your pad is full, simply because the fluid reaches the wing and you can see it. It will also fill your pad more evenly, not like with plastic pads, where the middle will get soaked, wings wet, but ends completely dry. So again a win.

Of course, I've heard that I have to use detergents which aren't so great, but that's wrong. Pads are small. They hardly put a strain on your normal washing routine. I wash them with anything really. Darks, whites, colours, everything goes. And I don't have to add extra washing powder just to have 3 extra pads washed in addition to the laundry. This is a flawed argument, especially that a lot of plastic pads are filled with chemicals which are dangerous to environment, not to mention plastic itself, which in case of towels isn't really easily recyclable if at all.

Some other person told me they don't like the thought of blood being washed with their clothes. I'm sorry, can't help you there. I sometimes pre-wash them in only cold water, especially if I have to carry them from work to home. Closed tightly with those aforementioned clips they are quite easy and safe to carry, but if it's hours between change and going home, then sure you will want to pre-wash them. That also means that a very small amount of blood goes into a washing machine. Besides who never cut their knee or a hand and didn't have to wash off blood from their clothes. Come on. The
alternative is animals choking on plastic. Check Youtube, there's a lot about that there.

So far so good, right? No. I have also tried another brand of pads, bought from Ebay with really pretty design of birds on top. And it was a mistake. The cover fabric of these towels is simply too stretchy. It's hard to unclip them, they stretch so well that they might actually work as elastic wound covers, but are really bad for not so comfortable menstrual gymnastics. So if you look for something, I strongly advise trying one first.

So what about the maths?

Since everything else works so well, I just needed to be sure I am making a 100% good choice, after all, my wallet isn't bottomless.

And there it is.

I have heavy periods. On a normal month (no extra stress, no exercises like house moving and no very hot weather) I easily use 5 long night pads and 17 normal ones. That's a minimum of 60 long pads and 204 normal ones per year. Again assuming that I will be stress-free and weather is kind.

I used to use one of the most popular brands which I could get for £1.50 for a pack of 12 long ones, and £1.50 for a pack of 14 normal ones unless I could lay my hands on the "silk" ones which were nicer to my body, but more expensive. But for the sake of clarity and simplicity let's assume it's just one type and a cheaper one too.

That means I have to buy 5 packs of long ones and 15 packs of normal ones per year. Which comes down to surprisingly low figure: £30 pounds a year.
But that's not all. Almost every two months one of these plastic contraptions would fail, resulting in at best in a loss of a pair of knickers, at worst a need for a quick wash of pants. That's for me some extra stress and around £15 of loss in underwear, sometimes much more.
So far it has never happened to me with the cloth pads!

I initially had only 3 long ones and 6 normal. Even if I have to dry them indoors because the weather isn't great it takes two days to get that done, so I actually spent on my initial set:
£12 + £21 = £33

Later I got two more long ones from the extra pleasant to touch 0waste.market brand and 3 normal ones, so my set in total is worth:
£33 + £7 + £9 = £49
and has 5 long pads and 9 normal ones.
Seems to cost more than plastic, right?

Well, counting my lost lingerie (some of which I really liked), and stress that I might get up from that chair with a stain on my bottom it isn't.

Especially that, these will last me for YEARS.
And seeing how well they wash I'm assuming 3-5 years at least.

Which means that I've spent £49 pounds as opposed to £90 (3 years of plastic sanitary towels).
If they last longer then that's even better.

If that's not a win, then I don't know what is.

16 August 2016

Washing up the dishes.

I've read a couple of posts about how it's so easy to replace your dish washing tablets or powders with something easy, cheap and biodegradable made of baking soda and salt in most cases and I was thrilled!

Just in case if you really want to try yourself, be my guest, but please read until the end so that you avoid disappointment.

I have tried a simple recipe suggesting:

2/3 soda bicarbonate (the basic ingredient in baking soda),
1/3 kitchen salt
and a few drops of dishwashing soap.

I've tried this with fully loaded dishwasher and it didn't work well. Light loading it didn't improve things, replacing baking soda with soda bicarbonate grade A purity, pure salt (without anticaking agents and such) and simple castile soap left all my dishes looking like this:

Frankly? They looked as if they weren't washed at all. Knives were greasy and marked with white residue. Glasses streaked with a powdery cover which only went off when washed manually.

Then I read an article that what actually is going to help is turning baking soda into sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate is well known domestically for its everyday use as a water softener, and since I have a very heavy water I thought it must be it. 

You can make sodium carbonate quite easily from sodium bicarbonate.
Spread a thin coat of SB on a baking tray and put it in the oven for an hour in 200 deg.

Then you mix it in the following proportions:

2 cups of sodium carbonate
1 cup of sodium bicarbonate
1 cup of borax (also known as sodium borate)
1/2 cup of citric acid.

Now why did I chose this particular recipe?
Because people overall were ecstatic about it.
It had really high reviews and contains stuff you can easily buy and is safe for the environment.

Now I was expecting a huge improvement.
Both sodium carbonate and borax are water softeners and should make my dishes sparkling.

Well, I had a reception the following day and I ended up hand washing ALL of my dishes in preparation because there was literally no improvement at all.

I could not give my guests glasses which looked like taken from my grandma's dusty coffer and not even wiped clean.

So after the party, I just went and bought already tried and tested Ecover Dishwasher Tablets.
They are zerowaste, Even the small packet in which the individual tablets are packed are nicely marked with the type of plastic they are made of and it is a widely recycled one.

Sure I personally would like not to use ANY plastics at all, but I am working full-time. I can't wash manually daily. Not to mention that even if I wanted to, castile soap also comes in a plastic container. And on top of that manual dish washing is wasting a lot more water than the dishwasher does, and water should be saved too.

05 August 2016

How do you deal with bullies?

Title: Aggression
License: Creative Commons 3 - CC BY-SA 3.0
Creator: NY - http://nyphotographic.com/I
I haven't been in the movement, if Iay call it like that, for a long time but I have already encountered my fair share of mockery or even outright hostility.

Sometimes it comes from fiercely loyal employees of well known drug stores who feel my reusable sanitary pads are some sort of attack on their department stores. Other times it comes from people who think it is right to dress their laziness in the clothes of common sense and deny me any sense at all.

Regardless of the reasons it is always unpleasant and hurtful.
Especially that what I do will benefit these people as well.

Have you ever encountered people like this?
How do you deal with their terrible behaviour?
How do you keep up your spirits?

31 July 2016

Unbleached paper

Unbleached paper

I'm going to share my latest find because it is amazing.

I've read a lot about making your own sandwich bags, and I swear I wanted to. Only... I never have enough time. Not to mention, buying beeswax is not as easy as it would seem here.
And then I've stumbled upon IF YOU CARE products. Good name for an eco-friendly company.

What they do is pretty unique and I, love the idea. IYC use materials specifically chosen to reduce their impact on the environment. They use unbleached paper, recycled materials and wood and paper coming from sustainably managed forests. In short, they replace petroleum based ingredients with natural and renewable resources; paper from pulp and paper mills practising the highest levels of clean water management.

What's so unique about their paper that I've mentioned it in the title?

Wood pulp, in its natural state, is brown or beige. Papers made from such pulp – for example, brown paper bags, and most cardboard boxes – are also brown. Usually, paper is subjected to a bleaching process to make it white, using chlorine derivatives, principally chlorine dioxide (ClO2), with horrible environmental consequences. Chlorine derivatives still produce toxic chlorinated organic compounds, such as chloroform, a known carcinogen.

Totally chlorine-free (TCF) paper is paper which is either unbleached or bleached using no chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Bleached papers which are totally chlorine-free (TCF) have been bleached with oxygen, ozone and/or hydrogen peroxide. These bleaching methods have none of the environmental impacts of chlorine chemistry.

IF YOU CARE paper is unbleached and always totally chlorine-free (TCF).

Now, what does it really mean for us?

Pretty much, that their products have really small impact on the environment compared to common methods used by other producers. So not only are we zero waste at home (because we can recycle and compost what we get), but we can also be sure that those products come from a place where they are manufactured in the most green way currently possible.

They are in fact efficient enough to produce recycled aluminium foil using only 5% of the energy normally used to create foil!

Another quite interesting thing they do is using supplies which might normally go to waste, and create a product that's very much needed: Soybean wax.
Soybean wax is a 100% natural, 100% renewable resource, unlike the more common petroleum-based paraffin wax. It is clean, safe, non-toxic and biodegradable. Soybeans are a renewable and sustainable resource grown by American farmers. Soybeans have a particularly good environmental impact in that they return nitrogen to the soil. Using soybean wax in place of petroleum-based paraffin wax helps reduce the use of petroleum products. For the farmers, this is a new way to make economical use of the soybean surplus.

Back to bags...

This is my favourite product of theirs: If You Care - Paper Sandwich Bags

If You Care - Paper Sandwich Bags - 48

With a price of 7 pence per bag, it is a no-brainer for a busy mum like me.
Also, the fact that the entire packaging is recyclable (carton) and the bags are compostable is another win. 
They are big enough to actually hold quite good pieces of food and are quite sturdy.

And the list of bonuses gets longer still:

  • Unbleached greaseproof paper
  • Totally chlorine-free (TCF)
  • Natural barrier properties – not chemically treated
  • 100% renewable resources
  • No petroleum products
  • Minimum waste
  • Vegetable-based inks for printing
  • Non-toxic glues
  • Replaces petroleum based plastic sandwich bags
  • Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
  • Microwave safe
  • Gluten free
  • Allergen free
  • Star-K kosher
  • No animal testing
  • No animal ingredients

And here's a bit of info from the producer's page:

IYC Sandwich Bags

12 July 2016


The title might sound a bit aggressive, but it actually is just a fun abbreviation of the latest by Oxfam:

Give, Reuse, Resell, Recycle!!!


Every item you donate helps them save and change lives for the better. They can change unwanted items into life-saving essentials such as seeds, classrooms or clean drinking water.


Alongside Oxfam's online shop and High Street shops, there are pop-up shops at various music festivals which raise around £250,000 each summer to help change the lives of people in poverty.


Clothes which don't sell in their shops are collected and sold elsewhere. One of Oxfam’s social enterprise projects is Frip Ethique in Senegal where women earn a living, sorting and selling donated clothes to local market traders


As a last resort, any leftover textiles are recycled into things like mattress stuffing or car soundproofing. But it is your high quality donated items that raise the most money for Oxfam's work.

I have just donated 10 bags full of good quality clothes (sometimes new with tags!) to not only follow up with my de-clutter plan for 2016 but also help their cause.

21 June 2016

50 years of credit cards in the UK

50 years of credit cards in the UK
Apparently this year marks an anniversary of this vital financial tool.
There is a list of 50 fascinating facts about credit cards on Moneysupermarket.

I'd call this a list of sad state of the issue after half a century! And I'm not even referring to the sad state credit card utilisation mean to a lot of people.

Take a look at these points:
  1. There were around 60 million credit cards in circulation in Britain as of November last year.
  2. Placed end-to-end, they’d cover 3,125 miles.
  3. That’s roughly the distance from Dublin to New York.
  4. If the average card weighs 5-10g, their total weight would be somewhere between 300,000 and 600,000kg.
  5. That’s roughly equivalent to between 25 and 50 double decker buses.

Now translate that to the fact that these cards are replaced every year. True, some of us hold onto their card for three years or more, but some lose, misplace or damage theirs way more often. We also usually own more than one, sometimes more than 10! On top of gym cards, loyalty cards, and various different utility cards we get this easily will tally up to 1 million kilogrammes, or 1000 tonnes or over 2 million pounds!

Now some card providers apparently switch to more green card materials, but most are your good old PVCa (polyvinyl chloride acetate). It's a copolymer of two monomers, production none of which is exactly nice for the environment, nor is the end-effect good for it.

Apparently PVCa is better than PVC because it degrades quicker.
Except, that 90% of credit card issuers add extra additives to their cards, to make them more durable for example. Some do not even disclose what those additives are; hiding behind patents and such.
And even if they did, cards are built in a much more complicated matter than just a sheet of plastic. This affects recycling in a massive way.

And, of course, it is hard to recycle. Cards are designed to sustain a lot of stress. They have to be durable and that is an opposite of biodegradability.

What we end up with is 600,000 kilos of dangerous plastics which, if not today, then in a very short time will end up in a landfill near you.

Even though some suppliers switch to greener materials, I think it's time to do more!

It's time to go virtual.

That's why I like so much all those ideas some companies (I'm not going to advertise here) come up with.
Sadly most of them still rely on cards.
And if your concern is about security, then you have to be aware that paying with your phone isn't that much more dangerous than contactless really, yet people switch to the convenience of that payment method gladly.

Why should we not shift to the mobile then?

Nowadays almost everybody has a bank application on their mobile.

There is no reason not to use it as a payment tool.

I have written a letter to all major UK based payment card issuers and AmEx to ask about their view on it, alternatives they are proposing and issues they face.
Watch this space for their replies.

13 June 2016

Zero-waste cleansing routine for an acne prone skin

My skin has always been a problematic one.
It seemed like it stopped at a teenage stage and refused to mature! It is almost fine because even now at 40 I have no wrinkles, but the acne! I'd gladly trade some of it for fine crow's feet.
On top of that, I have a dry combination skin which makes it particularly hard to take care of it. And when I say dry I mean dry like sandpaper, not just slightly dry. While my T-zone can be dripping oil in hot weather. Cosmetic disaster.

I've tried creams, masques, dermatological treatments, some crazy expensive and the results were at best temporary. Until I've found the oil cleansing method (follow this link to read more from the source). 
The inventor of the method based her idea on one premise:

Keep in mind that oil dissolves oil. 

Which seems quite simple, so why have I not thought about it ages ago?

I have been using this method for a couple of months now, and I am astonished.
My skin hasn't miraculously renewed, nor does it look more youthful or better fed. None of the marketing BS major companies promise you happened here. Which, let's be honest rarely happen anyway. At least not to people with the kind of problems I had.

Yes had.

I have recognised that even though my T-zone is oily, my main problem areas were the dry ones, so I am using the recipe for dry skin:

3:1 ratio olive oil to jojoba oil plus a drop of tea tree essential oil per 6 spoons of olive oil.

This is different from the proposed suggestion on the page, but that's after some trial and error I went through.

this comes down to:

6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp jojoba oil
1 drop of tea tree essential oil

For makeup removal I don't add any essential oils!

REMEMBER that essential oils are very concentrated and may damage your skin, so before using any try on a small patch of skin in a covered area.

Tea tree works very well for me as it has many healing and antiseptic properties and my skin seems to like and tolerate it well.

That, as the creator suggests, is a good cleansing method in the evening.
There is no need for any night creams after it, which for me before I've found this method, was a must, because hard water from my taps always left my skin feeling rough and dried up.

In the morning, I follow another routine which is to simply wash your face with pure natural honey.
I cover my face with a thin layer of it, massage and rinse with warm water. Then just pat dry.
This leaves my face feeling clean and moisturised.

You can find really good value honey on Amazon, for example:

Other ingredients I use are:
Plus any organic olive oil.