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.
Right?
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


Whoa!
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

GRRR!

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

Give, Reuse, Resell, Recycle!!!

Give 

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.

Resell 

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.

Reuse

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

Recycle 


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.

Kitchen utensils

Kitchen utensils
What I really don't like is the plastic that touches my food. Just the thought of it makes me cringe, yet there are so many actually pretty plastic utensils it is amazing how easy it is to fall down that hole.

When we made the resolution to stop using stuff that harms our environment we noticed how much of our kitchen needs replacing:

Stunning and completely non-eco-friendly utensils (ABS plastic is not only not biodegradable but also made from non-renewable resources!)
What we use instead are stainless steel:

And since these are not suitable for surfaces that can get scratched we also have some bamboo ones:



Chopping boards are also to be replaced. We used these lovely, and quite useful:


Now we use bamboo ones: Not only are they more eco-friendly but also easier to clean and smoother than wooden ones:


Instead of a host of plastic containers we had:

Product Details Product DetailsProduct Details

We have moved to glass, steel and ceramics (I really love the garlic one!!!):

Product Details

Kitchen Craft Classic Collection Ceramic Garlic Jar

Product Details

Kilner Square Clip Top Jar 1.5ltr

Product Details

We also had this (I must say very useful dish drainer):
As pretty as it is, in my household supplied with mostly hard and very hard water it quickly changed into a hideous calcite covered piece of garbage, which I really wanted to replace!!! I don't like wooden ones because they don't dry quick enough, this is England...

So what we bought instead is your old but very useful steel one, which is so much easier to clean and because it is more open dishes dry quicker in it.
It also isn't very big, which promotes organised cleaning ;) You simply have to take those dishes of off it and put them away.


We are slowly replacing our strainer/bowl/measuring cups set:


With your good old metal and glass things. 
Three major points in favour of those are:
  1. Ease of cleaning (plastic gets scratched and starts collecting dirt easier)
  2. Heat resistance (some of the pieces of that set got damaged with heat and stopped stacking nicely, I'm not even thinking what they seeped into our food!)
  3. Dishwasher and oven safe glass bowls, make reheating and storage a bliss! Why did we ever start using plastics in the kitchen?! I like pyrex bowls especially because of that. They also come in a lot of sizes so you can stack them up nicely and save space.

Product Details
Pyrex Glass Bowl, 3.0L
Master Class Large Stainless Steel Fine-Mesh Sieve, 20.5 cm (8")

We all know plastic funnels, right? 

Product Details
I was extremely pleased to find that not only you can replace them with something eco, but also UPGRADE!
How? How about a funnel with removable filter :) I love it.
Again with this one you don't have to worry that the liquid is too hot.
Kitchen Craft 13cm Funnel With Removable Filter