29 April 2016

Filtering online shopping by lifestyle

I have been following mySupermarket since the day they were in beta.
I liked the idea really, but I've found it a bit cumbersome, because in the end when I tried shopping through them they saved me some money, but I lost so much more time!
At that point, I had Tesco saving my favourites automatically when I was shopping and offering me discounts for products I liked. They still do that, and that's why I remain somewhat loyal.
Sainsbury's had the best organic meats (among supermarkets that is) and fit beautifully in my busy schedule.
Waitrose had eggs, fish and dairy that simply was that one step better. Also more eco-friendly.

But it all needed a lot of travel, planning and time loss. I simply don't have that. Or rather don't want to waste my precious hours grocery shopping, queuing and finding a parking spot.

On top of that, I am what you'd call a difficult customer.
I want:

  • Organic
  • Eco-Friendly (sustainable sources, and no plastics for packaging)
  • Cruelty-Free
  • without MSG
  • Non-GMO
  • and ideally Fairtrade too.
Crazy, right?

So far only bananas fit that list in every respect, but one can't live on bananas only ;)

So I've just logged into mySupermarket and found out this amazing filter:



I love it. It solves so many of my issues in one go.

Of course, it's not ideal, if I choose all of the above and then search for cream, none of them remain really, but that's up to producers, really. Why can't I have cream in a glass bottle? 



Non-household waste recycling centres in Surrey


Image from the information brochure by recycle for Surrey
From 1 April 2016 non-household waste (plasterboard refillable gas bottles, tyres and large amounts of rubble) will only be accepted at eight CRCs (links lead location maps):



Charges are also being introduced for this type of waste, but there will be a free allowance of one 25kg bag of rubble per day.
This will be a cashless system with payment by card only.

For further information and updates visit surreycc.gov.uk/recycling or call 03456 009 009.

28 April 2016

Future rubbish


Stationery Aisle - Future rubbish.
Photo by insatiablemunch
I've just been to a meeting. And because I take notes and there were more people like me in it I have noticed how many of us are using disposable pens, markers, felt-tips and other items which will become the rubbish of the future soon.

And that got me thinking about the shopping lists we do.
At my home, we have a couple of pens and a few markers to make quick notes when mobile is not around. That is lazy I admit, but how many of us don't even stop to think about it.

Pens are quite tricky to recycle. They are often created from several different types of materials, which would need manual labour to be dismantled and then some of those, I'm sure, are not recyclable.
Also, refills and inks used in ordinary pens often contain harsh substances and pollutants quite harmful to the environment.

So I looked around, and it seems that apart from electronic methods of taking notes, which I'll cover later, the best sustainable way is to use pencils with fountain pens in the second place.
First are biodegradable, and second are reusable.

Of course, you'd use paper (biodegradable), which on the other hand I hate wasting.

At this point, we all have mobiles, and almost everyone has a memo-type application of choice.

Technology

google keep
Google keep icon
I'm an Android person so mine is the built-in Google keep app. You can create lists, notes, reminders and share them with people who have Google account. I'm sure Apple has something similar.

To switch to using an app as opposed to writing is probably easy for younger generations, but some of us will need a transition phase and it will take some effort to switch completely.

There is, of course, the thing with being reliant on gear which needs to be powered up to work.
The paper just is.

But I think it's worth switching for the majority of things, and keep pencils (I'm going to grab some of the colourful ones just for fun) for when you absolutely can't rely on tech.

Pencils

When opting for pencil make sure you chose only safe ones. Although the centre is called lead it has no lead component, that is a mistake from ancient times (you may read about it in Wikipedia). However, there are components which are still used and are either carcinogenic or unsafe.
It is best to go for a graphite or charcoal pencil (black lead).
When buying coloured ones be extra careful, because they can contain toxic stuff and be covered in toxic varnish.
I find pencils for children to be generally safer but I still check. Many companies sell eco-friendly art materials for children, and I think these are the best.

Fountain pens

Messy and a bit old fashioned? Can be, but then they are very classy and ECO.
You can easily buy completely natural and non-toxic ink and even pens are sometimes made from wood and metal, no plastic whatsoever.
Some of them are a real work of art too.

VICTORIAN ANTIQUE BRASS GOLD FOUNTAIN PEN KIT
Wooden Fountain Pen Handmade from Yellowheart wood.

Waterbased refillable markers

Now, this idea I simply love. Because you can use them to write on glass. I love making notes on my garden door. They are hard to miss and so cool :D
For that, you can even reuse empty shells 

24 April 2016

Storing food + some tips and tricks

This post is inspired by Rachelle's how to store lettuce and salad advice.
It was a godsend to me! Seriously, one of the few items I really had no clue how to store and not end with a floppy piece of very unappetizing green trash.
I could compost them, sure, but why? Why waste it?

Anyway. The idea by Rachelle is simply to separate all leaves put them in a container you can close, fill that container with cold water, close and put into a fridge.

Eureka!

So as much I couldn't say no to the pretty illustration, this isn't going to be a post about preserves.
But mostly about fresh food storage.
Because, you know, there are things I have a lot of experience storing, mostly due to the fact that I buy lots of them in a strange bout of: "ooh home-made pizza, it can't be that hard!". And then, of course, it turns out that it either is hard as hell, or takes more time than a preparation for an expedition to Mars, or I am simply bored with the idea and end up with 5 kilos of endangered flour.

So, without further ado, here's my list:

Potatoes

For starters, you can't store washed or damaged potatoes for long.
I've met a lot of people who had no idea that potatoes should be stored in TOTAL darkness.
Why? Because if not they become poisonous. Yes, I'm not joking, go have a read about solanine if you wish to know more.
And with air access, so that they don't rot.
Several organic box delivery companies pack them in paper bags which seem to be a brilliant idea, if only we remember about last necessary condition for them to be stored: in cold.
Not freezer mind you, unless you're aiming at the softness of an overused Ikea mattress,  Ideal temperatures to store them are between 7-10°C. 
Storing them the same way as lettuce leaves mentioned above isn't working because then they will drink that water and become tasteless and well... watery. But they have to have high humidity (around 90%).
So this all looks like a good old cellar really.
And if you have means to secure these conditions, you can store potatoes safely even for several months.
But what if you don't have a cold place like that?
If you have a garden you can build a storage for them: Dig a yard deep and wide trench. Length depends on the amount of potatoes you're storing. So you see already this is not a method for small amounts really.
Cover bottom with dry twigs, straw or leaves. Lay vegetables on it. This method also works for storing carrots, parsnips, parsley roots and beetroot. You can store them together too.
Then you cover it again with twigs/straw/leaves and add soil on top to form a mound.
Should temperature drop below 5°C, you need to add another 15cm of dry stuff and 15cm of soil.
And if you have neither do as I do: Try to make them cool, keep in the dark and eat fast!

Tomatoes

OMG. Now this is a real nightmare. Mostly because the stuff we buy in various shops comes on beautiful, good smelling vines. Take them off the vines immediately!
Vines will 1. drain juice from them. 2. For some unknown to me reason attract fungi.
And never store them in airtight containers (bags, jars, you name it), they will simply ferment in it.
Did I say potatoes like low temperatures? Actually, all veggies do. Some fruit actually like to be stored in very low temperatures. That how you get winter apples in the spring.
So yes, tomatoes like it cool too. But now the real fun starts.
If you've bought usual tomatoes from a supermarket, they are most likely not ripe. They may look orangey-red, but rarely are untreated or sun-ripened.
And you should never store unripe tomatoes in a fridge!
This actually has a scientific explanation. Some of the chemical compounds which give tomatoes their divine taste get damaged in very low temperatures.
So what was I on about low temperatures? Because it's best to store them above 10°C but lower than 20°C.
And out of the sun in a well-aired place.
But then ripe tomatoes actually get quite well if stored between 7-10°C. Or even in a fridge, because it will not damage their taste and stop the ripening process. Don't forget tomatoes are actually fruits, so they will get ripe naturally until they rot. Low temperatures slow this process.
And now a tip:
Soak tomatoes in 51°C water for 5 minutes prior to refrigerating and they will keep a lot of their aroma for longer. (based on experiments by an American scientist Jinhe Bai).

Bread, rolls and pastries

Depends on what you have. But most of those can be frozen. I usually freeze bread in slices, because then it is enough to take them out of the freezer for 20 minutes and they're ready to eat, loaves would need to be treated in oven or microwave here, or potentially wait till your next birthday to defrost naturally, so the choice is simple. You can freeze bread for up to 3 months.
For normal storing in room temperature I always suggest linen bags. That way certain types of bread can stay fresh for 10 days. Wooden bread bin is a good choice too. Why? Bread and rolls need to "breathe" to stay fresh, but they can get too much air, or they'll dry out. Also, linen and wood are natural, and they will keep mould at bay.

Meat and fish

Of course some can be frozen.
There is one important thing to it, though: Portion you meats and fish before freezing and always label and date it!
Never wash it prior to freezing, water helps certain bacteria grow. Yes even in a freezer.
You can lightly sprinkle it with lemon juice, that will stop these bacteria.
Make sure your freezer is working well, there are no major temperature fluctuations and temperature in it is around -18°C, they might spoil your meat, and that's very dangerous.
How long can you store what?

  • lamb up to 9 months,
  • beef and veal: up to 8 months,
  • pork up 6 months,
  • mince up to 2 months,
  • cutlets, chops and diced meat up to 6 months,
  • sea fish up to 5 months,
  • freshwater fish 3 to 4 months,
  • poultry only up to 3 months.

General rule of the thumb is, that the fatter the meat is the shorter can it be stored. Fats oxidise and spoil faster.

Cheese

Always store in a fridge. Because you serve them in room temperature, remember to take them out an hour before serving (blue cheese needs less).
Wrap in waxed paper or parchment and put in a box. Paper will let the cheese aired enough to keep it "alive" and the airtight container will create microclimate not letting the cheese dry out.
Blue cheese will actually be ok wrapped in a foil.

Spices

Different spices have different needs, but you will not get wrong if you ensure all are stored in dark glass jars or wooden closed containers, and in a cool and dark place.

Oats, Flour and other dry things like pasta

Dark, dry location. Ideally in airtight containers.
Large quantities of flour can be stored in gunny sacks. This, however, needs low temperature up to 15°C, very well aired location, and darkness again. Also, it's best to dry out and sieve flour before storing. It's good to put a sack on a wooden box or pallet, to make sure it is well ventilated.

Eggs

Now this is easy.
Put them in a fridge into those little compartments nothing else fits in unless you're refrigerating ping-pong balls. Don't wash them before putting into a fridge, that may attract bacteria, wash prior to using.
Never store them in full sun, high temperature or high humidity. 
But that's not the issue with eggs. The real question is: HOW LONG?

Raw eggs (in the shell of course) can be kept safely in refrigerator 3 to 5 weeks.

The exact timing depends on the freshness of them.
How to check it?
Old eggs drown in cold water, fresh ones know how to swim ;)
Also, if you crack the egg and white has two well-defined layers (see image) that means the egg is fresh.

And now for a trick:
Eggs have an air cell at the flat end.
Store them flat end up, and they will stay fresh longer!




23 April 2016

Who are we?

Guardian has posted this article recently. It's amazing!
It gives our movement an excellent overview and offers a clear summary of what we are after.
However as it focuses on the hardships and hate zero wasters often attract it misses one important point.
It paints the movement in Millennials colours almost exclusively. As if it was just one generation hype.
I don't know about you but I think it's incorrect and does us a disservice because it diminishes efforts of generations of people who fought for recycling when it didn't have a cool name we use now, and it really was seen as being slightly crazy.

Therefore, I'd like to ask you: WHO ARE YOU ZEROWASTER?
(Your answers will only get saved once and this is just to collect some anonymous data so that we know the statistics. Nothing more.) Results here
Quiz Loading...

22 April 2016

Refill dissapointment

I was looking for a refill of detergents. And organic food without bags.
It really is a shame that neither of the big supermarket brands offers their organic fruit in recyclable bags.
No really. They mostly come in plastic that's not recycled.

I understand that they have to make sure people do not mix organic and non-organic at the till, especially with those self-service tills so common now, but surely there is a way of doing it in a more green manner?

Waitrose seems to be the only one who on their website even cares to show this information:
 in full

Sainsburys do a partial job:

Packaging
Plastic - LDPE bag
Plastic - LDPE label -glued
Other plastic tape


I couldn't find this information on Tesco's site.

Asda is slightly better than Sainsbury's in terms of telling if it is recyclable but not what it is made of really:

Recycling Info
Plastic - Not Currently Recycled: Bag.

Exactly the same is done by Morrisons:

Recycling Information
Film - Plastic - Not Currently Recycled

Aldi isn't strong on organic products anyway. Nor is it on their description:


Same for Lidl and Co-op.

Where can I get refills then?

This really saddening article written in 2011 has shown that Asda tried introducing refilling of the detergents, but resigned. That was 5 years ago, and nothing has changed.

I've found these SESI operating in Oxford (a bit of a trip for me), but their wider audience aimed online store is now defunct.

Unpackaged is another supplier I've found and apparently they work with Planet Organic, but they are sadly only selling in one store plus PO is a tad too expensive for me to do my daily shopping there, not to mention I can't really take all my containers (even weekly) and commute to London to refill. Why not? Because petrol I'd use is another waste not worth the hassle, and we all know or can imagine how cool it is to drag twenty pounds of groceries on your back, like some sort of poor donkey, only without the option of hauling them hands-free. Nope. That's not going to happen, my legs would kill me. BTW, Unpackaged tried opening their own shop and closed after only 12 months. People in the UK are not yet there as it seems.

I've just got back from Wholefoods shopping. It's an American market, who is at the forefront of sustainable food sales (or at least they sell themselves as such), and managed to get some of my groceries package free, without any hassle. The woman at the till didn't suggest plastic bags (they ask if you want paper ones and give you a 5p discount if you come with yours). Some items are cheaper with them than in other supermarkets bust majority is more expensive. Sometimes not much, but still.
Also, they only have stores in London, Cheltenham and Glasgow. Not very useful to me.

I've mentioned that Ecover and you are supposed to be filling. But the closest place to my house in a 30 minutes drive. Still I'll give it a go.
another brand I've mentioned is You. They will sell refills which come in very small recyclable packaging. Not ideal, but at least it gets recycled, and refilled several times. The size of the refill tab means more can be transported at a time. This is how it looks (Youtube).

At the moment, bulk buying seems the only alternative. Sad.

image from: PublicDomainPictures.net

Toothbrushes part 3 - SaveSomeGreen.co.uk Bamboo Toothbrush review

Bamboo Toothbrushes by SaveSomeGreen.co.uk have arrived after four days from ordering.
We have not used them yet as we're still testing the first batch, but will do so tonight. See update below on how they fared.

I loved the packaging, which is made entirely of paper, even the envelope they came in was paper only (as opposed to plastic the Cebras came in).
We've ordered both types with bamboo bristles, ones with charcoal bamboo and ones with clear bamboo bristles.

At a first glance, I was almost certain that the charcoal ones are made of nylon, so my heart sunk, but the producer page says: "bamboo fibre Charcoal".
I hope it's correct.

see also:
Toothbrushes part 1
Toothbrushes part 2
Toothbrushes part 4







UPDATE
Get ready for some amazing stuff!
I've now used this toothbrush for a month. And my feelings are that it is going to be liked by people who use soft brushes. I like medium/hard more, but after a month of using this one I got used to it. Also regardless of the softness, my teeth felt clean, and my gums were massaged. In other words: good work.
But that's not what is the most astonishing thing about this little gem.

Please take a look at the photo below and compare with the one just above the update. This is a toothbrush after 33 days of heavy use!
My feeling is that it will last much longer than a plastic one. My husband said exactly the same thing this morning and, please, keep in mind that he's wearing braces at the moment so he is ploughing through toothbrushes really fast.


Just for comparison, this is my previous plastic toothbrush after a month (brushing 2-3 times a day):


Earth Day 2016 - 46th in the history of the movement.

Earth Day movement website

If you're here and have been alive and not asleep the last years you definitely know what it's all about.
Not going to bore you. If you want more visit the above page.

I will just say this: Nothing changes if you don't change.

Public domain



21 April 2016

Melamine

Melamine
In the meantime as summer nears my mailbox is filled with "designer" picnic tools, such as "cheerful melamine cups"

REALLY?

vintage melamine cups by H is for Home
Melamine is a plastic that's not easily recyclable. No. I've found a couple of places that said they have recyclable melamine dishes, but that's just partially true. Melamine can be ground to pieces and re-moulded or mixed with other materials making a semi-biodegradable item, but it in itself still is not fully recyclable and definitely not biodegradable in a reasonable time.

http://www.sda-uk.org/materials/popups/plastics/problem_with_recycling.htm

Besides melamine is dangerous.

https://eatbelive.com/2011/04/19/is-melamine-dinnerware-safe/

Even if you don't overheat those dishes, they are picnic dishes are they not? So they would stand in the sun. With acidic food in them. I for one am not happy to be a lab-rat here. Thanks.

No waste = no hunger, what Europeans don't know about the Green Third World

No waste = no hunger, what Europeans don't know about the Green Third World


Source:Pappadavada
Popular media feed us stories how the third world is only creating trash and we in Europe are so into cleaning the planet, which is not true.

Neither are some of my neighbours particularly into sorting their trash, not to mention cutting their landfill waste, but luckily nor are the less developed countries evil either.

This one idea seems to be maybe the first step towards something better, but hopefully, there are followers.

India:
Pappadavada, a restaurant in Kochi, India, has found a brilliant way to feed the hungry.
Instead of throwing away unfinished food, the restaurant is encouraging their customers and other people to put leftover food in a refrigerator placed just outside their eatery. The food will then be available for free for hungry people to take – no conditions, no questions asked at all.

read more at the source: Elite Readers

China:
China is responsible for 25% of carbon emission into Earth atmosphere, and the general consensus is that they are the evil of ecology on our planet, but is that so?

see: 5 of China’s Green Initiatives That Will Put Us to Shame

Korea:
Korea Zero Waste Movement Network has been reporting such cool things it really is a shame not more European places adopt them!
For example, there was a Fast-food Franchisee Without Disposables Opened in Seoul, also, they work hard towards fast-food chains to stop using disposable cutlery, cups and plates.

This is a plague here truly!
Whenever I have to eat out I compare everything to really simple food stalls in Central London where you will get your food packed in biodegradable paper boxes with wooden forks.
But even quite posh places will put plastic cutlery into my bag more often than not. Sometimes even when explicitly told not to. Sigh.

16 April 2016

Cleansing pads

I've found my perfect pads on Etsy!

They've arrived today and are such a great idea. Washable, two-sided (soft and slightly rougher one), made of organic cotton, and for a great price too!
Since I use two to 4 when removing make-up, but not every day, because I don't wear heavy make-up so most days warm water and soap does it, two packs of these will be more than enough for me.

So far I've been using a brand which sells 200 pads for £2. Great price, eh? But they aren't even organic, not to mention that they come in heavy non-recyclable packaging and are a waste themselves.

Now I'll have something which will last me definitely longer than those 200 and doesn't create waste at all :D

As you can see they came in lovely paper wraps, optionally Michelle can create a sweet fabric bag for them.


15 April 2016

Toothbrushes part 2 - Cebra wooden toothbrush review

First of the ordered toothbrushes came within a day. Nice!
I have described my selection process here.

I'm talking about the Cebra wooden ones.

What bothers me is the packaging and the fact that producer is very vague about the material the bristles are made of. It only says: natural, and packaging is a piece of plastic which is supposed to be biodegradable.
Well, all plastics are biodegradable only some take thousands of years to do so... I've asked them, and we'll see if they answer. UPDATE ON THIS BELOW.
I'll probably also experiment with water and such, as this wrapping does feel different to the touch, a bit like the soluble stuff used for dish-washing powder wraps.

The toothbrush itself is nicely made. A bit short, but still O.K. to operate.
Very well finished, smooth and pleasant to touch. There is no wood aftertaste, someone mentioned somewhere at all.
Bristles are on the harder side, but I like them. They get softer when soaked for longer and I get the feeling that I don't have to brush as hard as with plastic ones to still get them actually reach everywhere.
Also, even though they're quite hard, I didn't get any irritation or scratches on my gums.

My husband also likes this toothbrush and described it as very pleasant and not at all hard. He just thinks it will not last with his braces. We shall see.

Wrapping in  which we got it delivered

How it looks as a whole

Head with "natural" bristles
UPDATE: delivery and packaging
Not only did the producer answer my questions about the bristles material and plastic wrapping, but they've also made proper changes to their product description. Good for them, because bristles are boar hair, which is indeed natural, I just hope they come from shaving them as opposed to less humane methods. But these are very good for enamel and for the environment.

The wrapping is apparently cellophane from maize. Almost perfect, as cellophane degrades without harmful effects in 5 months tops, and if it isn't treated with some extra glazings and such it could dissolve in water in a month. It's made of maize though and apparently the process is not so great as it does produce some nasty chemicals, but then again every plastic production does. It would be ideal not to get this wrapping at all, but if the producer thinks it's safer for the brush head and absolutely has to have something I think it's not a bad replacement.
There is a great article about cellophane here if you're interested in learning more.

UPDATE: usage experience
One month into using Cebra toothbrushes, and I must say I love them.
Bristles are slightly used, but they still feel good and swipe stuff off my enamel brilliantly.
Feeling-wise they are definitely better than plastic counterparts.
Literally 4 bristles have fallen out. First one on the first day I've used them, and it felt a bit disconcerting, but that was all. At this point, the bristles look and feel exactly the same for the past two weeks. No visual change.

After 30 days of brushing twice a day, my toothbrush looks like this in comparison to my previous brush used for exactly the same amount of time. I used medium firmness plastic ones (well known brand) and Cebra certainly feels like medium.



Wouldn't you say they seem better than the plastic ones?

Next step will be putting them into a jar full of rain water to see how they biodegrade.

see also:
Toothbrushes part 1
Toothbrushes part 3
Toothbrushes part 4

Community - list of websites and feeds from UK

For a short time I felt like I'm a lone because I am such a slowpoke, and jumped on the train too late, and zero waste movement was just another short term craze because most of the blogs and site I've found were huge but very inactive. As in last posts from 2010!

But then I've started looking and found a massive group of people. Most are like lonely islands in an ocean of people creating mess, but they're there! There's hope :D

Anyway, I thought it'd be cool to create a list of all those good websites, twitter accounts, and actions which are fueling this movement. Not only for myself (as I am forgetful) and for you my reader, but also for the authors, so that they see their efforts are appreciated. There's a lot of them, so I'll just make a list of UK based people and Surrey and Hampshire based actions.

ZERO WASTE WEEK

Zero Waste Week is a grassroots campaign raising awareness of the environmental impact of waste and empowering participants to reduce waste. Their physical address is:
My Zero Waste
St. Georges House
29 St. Georges Road
Cheltenham, Glos GL50 3DU
United Kingdom




Recycle for Surrey is a part of the Surrey Waste Partnership. They have started a blog covering the works and suggestion by the group of volunteers taking part in it.



Keep Britain Tidy has been working to keep our country clean for nearly 60 years.

Formed more than half century ago by The National Federation of Women’s Institutes.  Inspired to take action because of the increasing 'throwaway culture' in the post-war boom of the 1950s, they wanted to stamp out the rising problem of litter.


Freecycle.org logo
The worldwide Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

Freegle
Don’t throw it away – give it away on Freegle! You might not need that old sofa or wheelbarrow any more – but there might be someone just round the corner who does. Or if there’s something you’d like, someone nearby might have one.

Smart living that doesn't cost the earth
Smart Living is Hampshire County Council's waste prevention and lifestyle initiative.


streetbank
Streetbank is here to help you do three things:
  1. Give things away – find a grateful neighbour for stuff you no longer need
  2. Share things – like ladders and drills, that go unused much of the time
  3. Share skills – like DIY, languages and gardening, that neighbours might need help with


People @ Twitter:

Rae Strauss

@myzerowaste

Rachelle is THE force of the movement and if you just look at her enormous following list on twitter you will never run out of good ideas, people and organisations to follow and news to read:


14 April 2016

Toothbrushes part 1


By Science Museum London / Science and Society Picture Library [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Such a small item, but let's take a look at the amount we throw away every year with normal use and it becomes an issue.
The suggested change is every three months, but I, for example, find two months to be the time when bristles become worn and irritable. So that means I'm throwing in the bin 6 brushes per year. And normal/medium toothbrush is more durable. My husband ATM goes through soft ones bi-weekly because he's wearing braces. That's 26 toothbrushes from him. Plus another 4 from my daughter.

All in all, we probably bin well over half a kilo of plastic in toothbrushes yearly!

Even the "normal" use which is a toothbrush every three months (4 per person per year), assuming a toothbrush weighs around 20 grams we end up with 0.24kg or 0.53 pound of quite nasty trash, which is worse to biodegrade than plastic bags because it comes as tightly packed bunch of plastic as opposed to large but thin sheets of it. And we know how long these sheets take to degrade!

So what's in store?

Essentially only bamboo toothbrushes. Which some people are fine with some can't take the taste of wood.
I, personally, don't think 2 minutes of the taste of wood is that much of a discomfort really, but it's a personal matter I suppose.

Quick google search and I ended up with well over 20 different brands of toothbrushes. Amazon shopping on top of that and we have 40+ to go through, however...
Everything would be fine, but most of those toothbrushes have bamboo handle and nylon bristles.
As long as bamboo disintegrates nicely (if not painted or treated) that nylon doesn't. Oh fine it takes way shorter to biodegrade (c.a. 50 years), but think about it! 50 years is over half of a human life nowadays! If you see Highest Quality Dupont Tynex Bristles anywhere that's what I'm referring to. Tynex is nylon and nylon is a type of plastic.
I loved how one producer said you can pluck them and dispose of via normal channels. Such a nice way around to say: bin them. And how can they even advertise this product as ecological, green and biodegradable. Ask fish who choke on them how they like that. Doh.

So that list really is ONLY 3 items long:

TEA NATURA Bamboo Toothbrush for Adults
for £2.79 (+ delivery costs in the United Kingdom: £7.90) the cost of the brush is fine but combined with that delivery is rather costly. To give them credit they will send for free if I order for £42.95 in total, so I'd have to order toothbrushes for my whole family and some to achieve that, but that's beyond the point.
More details on how they served us here

Cebra Wooden Toothbrush With Natural Bristles
£6.95 + £1 UK delivery (OMG, that's a lot.) Although this one apparently has more firm bristles, so I will try it just to know how I like it. If I'm making an experiment I have to be thorough, right? Ker-ching...
More details on how they served us here.

Bamboo Toothbrush
either with bamboo or charcoal bristles £8.50 for a pack of three (that's 2.83 per brush) no delivery fee!
More details on how they served us here.

There are a couple others which look interesting, but come in this horrid plastic packaging which reminds me of computer accessories or electronic gadgets you can't get to unless you have a heavy duty knife, quite big scissors or an electric chainsaw!

I'll order all of them for me and my hubby and we will see how they compare.

Visual size comparison.
Note: Toothbrushes are in various stages of use, so this is not a comparison of the new by new.




12 April 2016

Detergents

What has been bugging me for a long time is this question:

Is replacing kitchen paper towels with fabric ones, which have to be washed in potentially harmful chemicals a good trade-off?

I don't think going for no landfill waste means anything if we don't think about broader environment impact our choice makes. What's the point in not dumping one plastic bag into my bin if I kill several trees in the process?!

Laundry

Let me focus on washing first, and there is still a lot to cover.

Phosphates

There is a fascinating article on the role of detergent phosphate in eutrophication. As complicated as it sounds it has been explained here how important it is that we use non-phosphate detergents. The abundance of phosphate causes much quicker degradation of natural lakes (that process is called eutrophication). And even though the article speaks about American government it applies to all of us.

non-bio

There's also the bio vs. non-bio war as well. Just to give some background: Bio washing detergents are those who in addition to "standard" chemicals also contain some enzymes. Some people claim these can cause skin irritation; some say there is no proof. And as objective as one may be I will say: come on, if even makers of these products, wanting to be on the safe side, advertise only non-bio detergents as suitable for babies, then they are not 100% sure if bio is indeed as benign as they claim it to be.
I've also heard from washing machine specialists that using non-bio detergents is safer for them and prolongs their life. Which pretty much means these enzymes are not safe for large kitchen appliances, and it is not unwise to assume that they would, therefore, be not safe for the much more delicate natural environment.

So at this point I know that if I opt from a detergent as opposed to paper towels, it should be phosphate free, coming in a recyclable container and be non-bio.

General washing rules

UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has ordered a research into reducing the environmental impact of clothes cleaning in 2009. Pretty informative to read. Covers matters such as line drying, for example. Yes, it is actually quite an important issue, because not drying in tumble dryers or even at home, when the weather is nice, is wasting natural resources used to generate energy. Pretty obvious, but still who can admit thinking of such things 100% of the time?

This report is actually quite insightful, because when it says washing in less than 30 degrees would save UK energy it also clearly states that bleaching doesn't work well in lower temperatures.
And so on. It is a very informative read. But let's look at just two points made:


OptionCurrent statusBenefit or savingTrade-offConclusion
Low temperature washingApproximately 17 percent of UK households washed at 30°C in 2007, compared to only 2 percent of households in their 2002 and the average UK washing temperature across all households has decreased from 43.5°C to 40.2°CIf all wash cycles were reduced by 10°C, an energy consumption saving of 15 percent would be achieved and if all consumers washed at 30°C rather than 40°C, a energy consumption saving of 12 percent would be achieved (approximately 0.5 TWh per annum) Low-temperature detergents perform well across a range of environmental indicatorsOne risk is that biofilms may develop within the appliance if routine higher-temperature servicing of the appliance is not established, , but the effects of this servicing would not be significant Another risk is that poor bleaching/cleaning effect may affect washing performance at low temperatureThe trend toward washing at 30°C should be driven by awareness raising and detergent labelling
Detergent form and dosingDevelopment of more concentrated detergents and detergents that are effective at low temperature has reduced their environmental impacts and enabled reduction of the impacts of clothes washingCompact powders and concentrated liquids have been shown to be less impacting across a range of environmental indicators (but results are drawn from a single study, so caution needs to be taken when drawing conclusions)Compact powders may be harder to dose correctly than regular powderPromote further development of concentrated detergent formulations Raise awareness of dosing accuracy issues (both over and under-dosing)


all of this looks fine, but is not quantitative!

Even when they go to more details, they only state that "The research has shown that low-temperature detergents have no significantly higher environmental impacts than conventional formulations, even when used at the same temperature, and perform better than regular formulations in across many indicators."

Good. But still not perfect, because I am not able to say if it will be better for the environment than sending paper towels into landfill.

Vinegar

So that got me thinking about vinegar. Yes, you must have heard of it as a cleaning agent. Our grandmothers used it, it kills more bacteria than generic detergent and so on. But is it true? And what is the impact of using vinegar en-masse on the environment?

There are two sides to this problem: pre-use and post-use impact.

What I mean is:

  1. How damaging to the environment is the process of creating vinegar before it even reaches my house do that I can use it?
  2. How much will vinegar harm the environment after I have discarded what's left after cleaning?
On the first point, there is a good piece on this blog.
And it pretty much boils down to the fact that vinegar can be either made from natural ingredients via the process of fermentation or by dissolving acetic acid created synthetically.
And as always natural processes are better for the environment, but less efficient financially, so nowadays naturally fermented vinegar makes up for less than 10% of global production (according to Wikipedia).
But I can tell that vinegar for cleaning purposes doesn't have to be distilled. Doesn't even have to be white, although using balsamic would be a bit expensive ;)
I go for white wine vinegar. And guess what? Some time ago I also learned that towels when washed in regular detergents or too much of them will become rough. And what helps is adding vinegar to washing. Now this is funny, but I no longer need a lot of detergent and no nasty whiteners either.

Just pour some vinegar into the washing compartment and some into the conditioning one. Sorted.

But how about the post-use environmental impact?

Now this is quite clear: vinegar is acid. And in high concentration, it is harmful to animals and plants.

But. Ordinary vinegar usually contains around 1% - 5% of acid. Better than that: you don't need 5% to clean effectively.

And also "Acetic acid degrades rapidly to harmless substances in the environment" according to Australian Department of the Environment.

But by no mean is vinegar harmless to the environment! It seems to be better than most artificial cleaners, but caution is still needed. And as with everything, I would advise using it sparingly.

Surface Cleaning

Regarding overall cleaning, it seems to be even easier than cloth washing.

There was an interesting experiment by Susan Sumner, Ph.D., a food-safety scientist at Virginia Tech, into the effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant. She found that spraying vinegar and then spraying hydrogen peroxide on produce killed a majority of E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria bacteria.

And since hydrogen peroxide is highly unstable and decomposes into water and oxygen without harming the environment this is a brilliant idea to decontaminate not only food (it's suggested to spray and let them dry before eating) but also all surfaces.

Another thing worth mentioning is fresh lemon juice. Yes as simple as that. It has mild bleaching properties, and because we wouldn't be using it in large quantities, it will be safe too.

Some people advise here on bicarbonate of soda, but I've found some troubling info. If naturally obtained, it comes from non-renewable resources. So that's a no. And if synthetically created it is a harmful process. Therefore, I will not advise using it! 
However, it still is a better option than, for example, bleach.

Conclusion


Now at this point I am fairly confident that switching to cloths and dumping paper towels is better for environment overall, as long as my detergents' use follows these rules:

  1. Buy concentrated detergents to save on packaging, or even better: look for refilling companies. Ecover or You I'm planning to check how that works financially for me next week.
  2. If need be, buy only products in recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
  3. Buy eco-friendly products. Now EU has a great thing which is called ECO LABEL,  but as always the UK has to be unique, so it is hard to find UK products with it. 
  4. Replace detergents with fermented vinegar + hydrogen peroxide where possible.
  5. Use only minimal amounts of cleaning agents to save the environment, but also equipment such as washing machines. Washing machines also finish in the ground. The later, the better.

08 April 2016

Glass Containers

England:
Humid & relatively warm (never too cold or too hot).
Ideal place for fungi to attack your food.
I need air tight containers.
And I want them to not be made of plastic.
I already use a bunch of glass ones in my fridge, but those are smaller and are not all right for flour, rice and other such things.

So I thought to myself I need proper weck-type glass jars.
Too bad in this country they are looked at as posh accessories to display your collection of colourful chillies rather than kitchen storage equipment.
Hence, they are sold with labels worded along the line of: "pretty", "unique", and some such. And of course with this comes price tag. For the love of all things, what normal person would want to store flour (hidden inside a cupboard) in a Kilner jar that cost well over 5 pounds.
I know some would say what? 5 quid is a lot for you? (Others would just agree I know).
No 5 quid is not a lot, but if I want to store lentils, and three types of flour and Basmati rice and wild rice, and so on... I'd have to spend close to 100 pounds on those jars alone! Come on.
In countries where people still make pickles at home, such as Eastern Europe, Greece and such you can buy those jars for a fraction of the price.
But then transport costs a lot, so even though we're in EU it's just not viable to order them from abroad.

And who knew I'd be saved by my own laziness.
I needed pots for my garden, but the weather was bad and I didn't want to drive far on that day, so I started looking for a place closer to home. And I've found The Range department store.
Not that it's posh, and that's the point. Majority of the stuff there is cheap and not so great quality, but I've found salvation there ;)


2.99 for a 1.7 litre one and 1.99 for a 1.1 litre.

If you look at their website they also have a healthy collection of Kilner jars too, but they just weren't at the physical shop when I was there.

However, I'd still opt for the ones above. They're not so pretty, and possibly not so good quality, but good enough for me and my flours :)

05 April 2016

Make-up removing


Cotton field
Apart from all the cosmetics in their plastic bottles (some are recyclable) what lands in the landfills very often even though it is biodegradable are common cotton pads, cotton balls and other forms of cotton used for make-up removal or as cosmetic accessories.

Now cotton is a natural material and it disintegrates nicely in between 1 month to a year, but there is a caveat: when cotton is not grown in an organic way and it biodegrades, chemicals used to grow it or treat it (for example to bleach pads so they look nice and clean) seep back into the ground and harm the environment.

Clearly I don't want to bin those.

Nor do I want to compost them, as my compost is often used to grow plants my family then eats.

So the plan is as follows:

Step one: use cotton pads I already have as a base for plant pots when planting flowers and other plants which will not end up on our plates. Some of the chemicals will get absorbed by plants, some will seep out of the planters with water that can be gathered and then flushed (I know not the best method, but that water goes to cleaning facilities and will be much better treated there than if it went to a landfill).

Step two: stop using cotton pads and start using replacements. What came to my mind initially was of course adverts-fed fear of not being able to replace with anything good or absorbent enough. Of course I was wrong... Our grandmothers were using other materials. And those cay be:

3. sponge (even foundation sponge), but best something natural which when discarded will biodegrade.

2. reusable cotton pads, made from cotton similar to clothes, which can get washed easily, they are widely accessible and some are really green (these are mine now!)
Examples:

Earth Softly Washable Cleansing Pads Soft Bamboo

Hemp Facial Cleansing Rounds Pads Washable Reusable Organic Cotton Fleece Eco Friendly Makeup Removers Scrubbies

1. flannel pieces or muslin squares, especially that you can buy end of lines in creativity shops or fabric stores and they feel by far the most pleasant on my skin.

There is however another issue here. Would land-filling cotton balls strain the environment more than washing. Lets not forget, that clothes cleaning processes are a source of various environmental impacts, linked to the consumption of water, energy, detergent and solvents. Where the most important seems to be connected with the toxicity of detergents.
Good question, right?

But if I think of the amount of detergent (ideally least harmful to the environment and not overdosed) used to wash two pads daily / or 60 monthly (possibly around a teaspoon per month) as opposed to binning those 60+ cotton pads it seems that's reusable stuff is much better for environment.

For my research into this check this post.