29 April 2019

How your phone can help you be more eco

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”
– Annie Leonard, Proponent of Sustainability

That message is particularly important for all zero wasters out there. So it's great news that app developers started thinking about global warming and other ways we can all do our little bit to help.

Carbon Trim App Icon Food, travel, appliances. Everything has a carbon footprint.
Carbon Trim makes carbon footprints of daily choices easily available - whether it's eating a pizza, riding a car or using an oven!

VraiLogo.pngSince the weather is getting better and everyone is already thinking of weekend get aways and those sunny, summer days, why no do it in a mindful way? FairTrip helps locate homestays, local restaurants and activities for a more sustainable holiday.

Cover art sustainability@BU is the easy way to make your everyday habits more sustainable, on campus, at home, work, and play. The app organizes sustainability tips into Actions that you Buzz in the app when you do them in real-life.

Cover art OLIO - Connect with your neighbours and local shops so that surplus food, and other household items can be shared with each other, not thrown away. Everything on OLIO is free.

Cover artEco Clean app contains easy recipes and ideas which help you clean your home in a healthier, less toxic, more natural and more economical way.

Don't forget about all time favourites like eBay, Shpock and Gumtree. They are the best  to sell your unwanted items and buy second hand.

The best thing you can do though is, next time when you open your app store or play store simply search for sustainable apps, or eco versions of... clothing shopping. They are there!

05 November 2018

How to convince your partner to be more environmentally concerned?

Partnerships broke apart due to smaller things than a fundamental disagreement over something that important to one side.

But like with any such issue, the solution doesn't start with just planning convincing strategy.

It comes down to finding the reason for not wanting to do something, in the first place.

In other words: Why isn't your partner convinced already?
The might be multiple reason for it, but the most generic ones are:
  1. They don’t believe there is a problem at all, a bit like people not believing in global warming,
  2. They believe there is a problem but don’t believe their actions are meaningful enough to make a difference,
  3. They think that convenience of living is more important than some far fetched gains for the humanity.

As much as it may seem counterintuitive, the last view is the easiest to fix!

If eco-friendliness is not inconvenient, or makes life cheaper your other half should have no problems embracing it.
So make them see that it actually is cheaper to use reusable containers than to get new ones every single time. Or that eco-friendly cleaning supplies can be as good as non-eco ones. And planning meals means less waste less smelly bins and less cleaning.
You get the idea.
A lot of people find recycling segregation extremely annoying. That's because they segregate straight into the collection bins. They have to go outside, sometimes in the evening, close to those smelly landfill bins and so on. Not nice at all. But if you get a recycling bin in your house that sorts all your problems. You segregate at home. That bin never smells because recycling materials should be clean. And it can stand anywhere.
In fact, what works best for me is a repurposed laundry bin. Looks good and is spacious enough for me to just empty it once in two weeks.

Beliefs are harder to fix. And not because there is not data to support the eco-conscious lifestyle, but mostly because people tend to stick to their own and fight for to the last drop of blood. It's important to challenge those beliefs in such a way that your partner doesn't feel ridiculed or attacked.

And if your partner doesn't feel powerful enough to make a difference just look for some examples of people who went out of their way and made a difference. Like Wayne and Koda or two small girls who changed the perception of many grownups.

Too much? No time. Just ask them this small question:

Do you think a piece of trash that someone dropped in the middle of a pavement makes a difference? That's how much it matters if just one person makes one action.

06 February 2018

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel
I like stainless steel items. They are durable, pretty and eco-friendly.

It seems I'm not the only one because that type of steel alloy is used all over the World and has many purposes.

From the architectural applications, where it's valued for durability,  corrosion resistance but also because it looks well and can be moulded to any shape imaginable and simply become a work of art.

Jin Mao Tower Shanghai China
JinMao tower is but one example of a building which facade is using stainless steel

Through various medical uses, where the fact that not only stainless steel items don't rust, but also they can be sterilised and re-used, thus cutting costs without endangering the patients.

To uses such as automotive and rail production.

And what's most important for an everyday user such as myself: kitchen utensils and tools.

There's no argument that not only stainless steel items are more durable than plastic or wood, but like in medicine, they are safer and easier to clean (boiling plastics anyone?).

Reusable Steel Water Bottle - BPA Free, 600ml

I asked myself recently: What is stainless steel actually and is it better for the environment in the long run?

And I've found this: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Stainless-Steel.html

There's no point in copying the whole article, it has brilliant information, and if you'd like to know more I strongly suggest to read it, but there are a couple of points where my eco-heart stopped for a bit.

Stainless steels are made of some of the basic elements found in the earth: iron ore, chromium, silicon, nickel, carbon, nitrogen, and manganese.

Whenever I hear about raping our planet for natural resources, I feel bad.
So how basic are those elements? And is mining them harmless?

Didn't have to search long and lo and behold the ugly face of mining raised its head. Not only iron mining is destructive to the land, but it produces quite a lot of pollution. (see Wikipedia). At least the resources aren't small. By no means does it mean they're sustainable, but they are there.

Chromium mining seems even worse if not controlled strictly. (source)

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, after oxygen. It can be found in nearly every rock on Earth, especially in common sand. Mining is practically safe and low-cost energetically compared to the other elements. Phew.

Same goes for nitrogen. By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, which means that getting it is not a problem.

Nickel? The Philippines this year closed or suspended 17 nickel mines because of environmental concerns. Enough said.

Carbon - another product nearly everyone on earth is aware of. Mining is harmful to the environment, and carbon resources have been heavily abused in recent millennia.

Manganese is a key component of low-cost stainless steel. Manganese is an important element for human health, essential for development, metabolism, and the antioxidant system. Nevertheless, excessive exposure or intake may lead to a condition known as manganism, a disorder that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.

All of this looks pretty grim. And on top of the energetic needs of the stainless steel production process, it can't be good, can it?

Actually, as I've found, it is.

Not only most stainless steel we use nowadays is in 60% made of recycled material, but also, steel is 100% recyclable. That's right! If you have an old razor blade, do not despair. It might get moulded into some beautiful building or hospital needle and save lives.

Don't forget also, that stainless steel products are designed for a long life - typically several decades.
Didn't we all see at some point this colander or spoon than went down generations in our family? Exactly! Once all these minerals are mined they stay with us for a very long time and are still usable.

The same can't be said about polymers.

Most plastics are quite easy to break (according to many theories by design, so that we buy more and more often). Plastic items are soft, so they get dirty quite easy, and majority aren't that good with high temperatures.
That's not all. When they aren't clean they're hard to sort. When, otherwise recyclable, polymers are mixed with specific additives, they might not be suitable for recycling anymore.

What do I mean?

A recent study shows that only 9% of the 8.3 billion metric tons that have been produced were recycled. Half of all steel produced, for example, is used in construction, with a decades-long lifespan. Half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year, the study found.

Post-consumer products may contain as many as 20 different types of plastic material; so one of the biggest challenges is sorting it all. Apparently recycling plastics uses only roughly 10% of the energy that it takes to make a pound of plastic from raw materials. Let's not be overly optimistic. US alone U.S. uses approximately 2 million barrels of crude oil a day to make plastics!

And that drilling and mining for oil is by no means less destructive to the environment than the materials used in steel making. Not only we deal with macro-devastation of land, but also explosive and toxic gases, fuel leaks, which pretty much were the news the last decade.
Oil mining literally stripes the land of vegetation, animal life and cause irreversible land changes, but also, that's the worst, the amount of gases leaking into atmosphere is casing climate change.

Reusing stainless steel uses around 25% of the energy used when creating from raw materials.
Global stainless steel production in 2016 was 45,778 mln metric tons. 60% of which comes from recycling. That's vastly less than the oil reserves devastation for polymer production only (let's not forget oil reserves are being depleted for other uses too)!

Recycling Economic Facts (source)

  • Between 2004 and 2014, the global production of plastics grew from 225 million tons to 311 million tons.
  • According to PlasticsEurope, 7.7 million tons of plastics were recycled globally in 2013, including greater than 3.5 million tons of post-industrial and post-consumer plastic scrap.in the U.S., according to ISRI estimates.
  • In 2013, ISRI estimates that 3.5 million tons of postindustrial and postconsumer plastic were recycled in the U.S.
  • The recycling rate for plastic bottles in the United States reached 31.0 percent in 2014, down slightly from 31.2 percent in 2013.
  • Only a very small percentage of recycled bottles are used to make new bottles.  Coca-Cola sources only 7% of its plastic from recycled material, while Nestle Waters North America uses just 6% recycled contact.


It is quite clear that a lot has to be done to make mining for materials safer and less destructive.
Ideally, we should not mine at all and reuse everything we can, and I hope such times will come sooner rather than later.
But the comparison of the environmental impact and usefulness of plastics versus stainless steel products is simple.
Oil drilling, by sheer volume of changes and hazards is way worse than any other mining on the Earth. Not even coal.

The amount of extremely hard to clean waste produced from plastic is catastrophic, while 100% of stainless steel and and most likely will be reused, and even if not it is dormant. It does not react with wildlife to the level plastics can.

That's why I've decided to stay with my metallic beauties :)

Decorating Spoon with Tapered Spout

28 November 2017

How do I....

Public domain
Sometimes life puts a problem in front of us and we simply have no idea how to deal with it.

Luckily I'm speaking only of small things zerowasters have to deal with such as cleaning stubborn stuff or clever reusing ideas.

A lot of knowledge has been almost lost to us, because our culture got so reliant of detergents, disposables and automation. 

Alas! not all is lost.
Here's my list of ideas, I hope they will help you too.

Oven cleaning (also fireplace glass, glossy surfaces cleaning and silver cleaning)

Simply use the finest wood ash from your fireplace.
Mix with water to form a paste. It's abrasive, hence the need for only finest ash, use with care. 

How to clean sweat marks on your tshirts?

Make a paste of toothpaste and baking soda, massage in the affected spots and then wash in a washing machine.

How to re-use dehumidifier water?

You can't use it to water your plants, because it's void of any nutrients and will harm them, but the relative cleanliness is a good thing, as you can use it to:
1. Flush your toilets
2. Mop floors
3. Prefill your washing machine (most have water level sensors so they should not get damaged)

18 October 2017

Eco friendly roasting bags test

I hope you don't mind that I've decided to share some real photos from my eco-life.
The reason I'm a bit shy about is that they are not as glamorous as the ones made by professional photographers and are not photoshopped.

They are how life looks like and that's why they are trustworthy.

They will show you what can you expect from a product I sell in zerowaste.market.

What I went for.
These are large fish. It's a dinner plate they are on so you can see the scale. 
I've decided to put each one into a separate bag to see how would different wrapping work. I was concerned that juice would either seep through or leak out the closing. I've added a lot butter to see how will the paper react with hot fat.
This is after baking.
As you can see barely any process visible. Both wrapped fish were secure, even though I have wrapped one completely the wrong way! There is a suggestion on the box on how to do it best, but I wanted to see what happens if I'm not careful and put it upside-down on the rack.

Non-stick Medium Parchment Bags - box of 6  - £5.15
My feelings
I've used the medium bags to prepare my fish dinner, but it's true, they are big enough to fit a whole chicken, and a large one too. Not a turkey, there's a different size of bags for that.
I'm happy with the results and will definitely be using these.
I don't like the idea of using plastic bags to prepare my food and these are an excellent alternative.
If you're used to plastic bags these might seem a bit more stiff, but for anyone who has some experience with baking using baking paper that's exactly how it feels.

In general I think it's a brilliant product.

I have also tested it with vegetable and it still holds, no spillage, no leaking, which means that vegetarians will be happy as well :D

06 September 2017

Is plastic recycling profitable?

Obviously, it's best not to recycle at all, and refuse or repurpose instead.
However for an average person, living on average salary and not having enough time to buy only entirely biodegradable, unpacked goods it's a bit of a Holy Grail crusade.

So if it's not possible to go completely zerowaste, why so many people find it hard to recycle?

There are many reasons that people, who avoid recycling, name as culprits:

  • It's hard to do
  • It doesn't make any difference
  • They should pay me to recycle
  • I have no space for recycling
  • It's inconvenient

To me all of these sound exactly like the last point:

Recycling is inconvenient

Just consider what "it's hard to do" means. It means that it's complicated either to the fact that you have to separate, clean, take to the recycling centre or make sure you use the right container or a mix of all of these.
That is a hassle. And why is that? Because recycling business want to push as much responsibility for the pre-processing onto consumer's shoulders, to cut costs.

How about "it doesn't make any difference"? On the surface, it looks like another issue, but in reality, the results aren't visible because so many people choose to not recycle for the rest of the reasons. Hence the main point is again: inconvenience.

"I have no space" reason is a no-brainer. Of course, recycling takes space. Especially if you have to separate, keep special bins and so on. Major inconvenience if you have a small house!

Should they pay me to recycle? That's a controversial one, but only if you don't look at it in depth. Imagine I've bought wine in a lovely crystal carafe. I drank it, but the carafe still has value, and I can sell it easily. Why not recyclables? Are there no companies who'd use these materials? As a matter of fact there are. Simple example are the bottle returning schemes that work in many countries. Usually glass bottles are exchanged for a small fee which makes the inconvenience a bit of a smaller burden.

It almost seems as if the "recyclable trash" is worth nothing or costs a lot more than raw resources.

And it has been that way, but not nowadays.

Recycling industry reports show that the plastic scrap recycling business has grown more profitable over the past decade. With the rising cost of petroleum, plastic scrap recycling saves natural resources and reduces production costs.

Recycling plastic business includes a broad base of scrap suppliers, a recycling plant, shipping facilities, and buyers of the end product. Recyclers of plastic prefer to purchase directly from major suppliers, such as retail stores and chain restaurants. Any successful recycling plastic business needs an uninterrupted supply of scrap plastic which means that there is a constant need for the product. In this case your trash.

The demand side of this business has shifted dramatically over the last decade or so also due to initiatives such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for buildings. Post-consumer recycled content garners extra points towards certification. So that has driven demand up, which makes it more profitable than before to deal in recycled plastics.

The fashion business also uses recycled polyester (and promotes as such on the price tags), which likely comes from recycled PET bottles, very hard to recycle otherwise. So there is a lot of healthy demand compared to in the past for these recycled resins.

Why then isn't the inconvenience taken of an average Joe to help recycling become a norm rather than some fancy-pants green fighter play?

It's profit. A lot of wealth comes from natural resources management and ownership and it makes no sense of these people to want the recycling to become the choice of the future. That'd make their valuable goods obsolete.
Of course, this kind of thinking is devastating, but let's not forget we're dealing with people who in majority care more about their wallets and less about the future of this planet.

I believe there is a lot we can do to put pressure on the governments to make them aware that we know these simple truths:

Recycling is profitable for companies 
Recycling is inconvenient for consumers

There has to be a shift in obligations towards recycling business if we want a better future.
And business leaders who understand this and support it should get more help from their governments so that they can help us, consumers, live a better, greener life.

05 September 2017

Paper Tissue Issue

Green People know that paper manufacturing is environmentally harsh.

Consumers like soft, plush tissue paper and that can only be achieved by cutting down forests. Recycled paper is slightly more rough and not as pleasant to those delicate body parts we want to touch.

Paper production uses a lot of timber destroying wildlife habitat. But the process of timber gathering is already a very devastating one. Heavy machinery is a source of physics destruction and sound pollution, making some parts of forests entirely uninhabitable.

It’s a major generator of water and air pollution including dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals. The industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming gasses.

According to Wikipedia:

Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling). Even paper recycling can be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking.

Metsä Wood sawmill in Kyrö, Pöytyä, Finland

Yet everyone still thinks that because toilet paper is soft and spongy and breaks in hands, and facial tissues are thin and biodegrade in months rather than years the problem is minimal.

It isn't.

According to the environmental agencies across the world about 20% to 30% of all household waste is paper. Less than half of it gets recycled. The remaining bits often end up polluting natural animal habitats and beaches.

These problems get raised every now and then. Animals covered in dirty tissues get photographed and for a while public thinks before flushing a whole set of barely used tissues.

But there are truths nobody ever speaks of publically and I feel are very important.

Dabbing your eyes with paper tissues might be the worst idea ever.
Milled paper sheds micro fibres, which is you're unlucky might cause serious eye damage (especially if you're allergic) or a build-up which will irritate and dry your eyes.
Did you ever stop to think why so many people nowadays get eye problems? Sure, we do use more monitors and stare at various screens for hours. But we also use way more chemicals and our eyes are constantly exposed to physical irritants.

Tissue paper ads to those.

It's worse if a producer promises no fibres. That can only mean the papers is mixed with polymers or cotton fibres as binders and makes this type of paper practically non-biodegradable or non-recyclable.

Some facial tissues are also full of anti-bacterial agents or fragrances. Regardless of what the producers claim, none of these substances are natural and healthy for our skin. Some could irritate and cause skin inflammation.

Another problem is called: containers. People usually speak of tissues or paper, but rarely touch the issue of what they come in. Most of the time facial tissues come in foil or a paper box with foil window. Sometimes that foil doesn't even have information about recycling. Other times it isn't recyclable at all. Even if it is mechanical separation of the paper and foil makes this process very expensive. 
Toilet paper and wipes come in foils almost 100% of the times unless it's plastic boxes and even those rarely get recycled, because most people dispose of them in their sanitary bins.

Why not move to a more eco-friendly, healthier and cheaper solutions?

Yes, in the long run cloths are way cheaper than paper tissues, if only slightly more inconvenient.

Table Of The Wedding

Here's what I've found.

There are several types of products that tissue paper is used for:

  • napkins,
  • facial tissues,
  • paper towels, 
  • toilet paper.


It's easy to replace napkins with beautiful set of cloth ones.

And as much as everyone advises taking one instead of a bunch when you're eating out I would just say: Take a pretty handkerchief with you. It weighs nearly nothing. Will fit in your bag or trouser pocket and can be used to clean your mobile screen when unused too.

You don't need paper napkins at all. 

Facial Tissues

Replacing facial tissues with cloth is a no-brainer. Not only are cloth tissues safer as I've written above, but also depending on the actual need you can have a whole set exactly suited for purpose.
Flannel for when you need it soft and absorbent (yes these are the best for uncomfortable sinus infections), cotton (for anything else) and even coarse linen for when you want to defoliate, wipe your make-up or grease from garage work.

They are also way more classy and prettier than paper waste.

Paper Towels

There's no debate that paper towels are extremely convenient. Especially if you're in a hurry, or in sudden need, nothing comes close to a handy towel at hand.
Or does it?
I actually know that a batch of nicely folded cloth towels placed strategically around the house don't have to look bad and won't add to laundry. They're actually even better because cloth won't tear or leave smudges on cleaned surfaces.

I also use ecoegg reusable bamboo towels in the kitchen. They are even better than paper towels, because they are stronger, last longer, can we washed and will in the end biodegrade safely. We have put ours in the compost bin, when they've run thin.

Another product which is perfect for spillages and when that extra absorbency is key are ecoFORCE quilted cloths. They can be washed and reused as well.

 Ecoforce Recycled Super Absorbent Cloth

Toilet Tissue

When it comes to toilet tissue the problem becomes a touchy one, because nobody wants to really switch to cloths for this, other ways such as washing are simply time consuming on most occasions. Although a bidet at home solves most of such problems, but obviously isn't a solution for everyone.
I'm still working on this one. Just need to organise some space in my bathroom ;)

Jokes aside, my household operates on these rules:

  • We only buy recycled toilet paper,
  • We avoid major brands, especially super white, super soft, because that means nature devastation and chemical pollution,
  • We use an amount needed not more,
  • We NEVER use non-biodegradable wipes,
  • And we cut down wipes usage to zero by using toilet paper with water or a bit of baby oil for way better and heather results!