Plastic Challenge

So, we are now 16 days into 2017 and my vow to reduce my usage of plastic is proving harder than I thought.  I simply never realised just how much stuff is made from plastic.

Now I’ve been looking into it a bit more, I’ve realised that the health benefits I suspect might come from using less plastic are out weighed by the benefits to the planet.  8 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, and of that most of it is for things used only once.  Only 5% of plastic made is recycled with the rest ended up in landfill or in the ocean. This in turn leads to one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals being killed every year. I also remain concerned that this is leading to chemicals from the plastic entering the water cycle and having negative impacts on our health, in particular in relation to hormones.

My first step was to get rid of the plastic chopping boards and replace them with wood.  I got rid of all the plastic bowls and cutlery lurking around the house.  I replaced the plastic toothbrush holder with a glass jar painted by my friends Ceira, which actually looks much nicer.  Then the hard stuff started.   After an effort I located some stainless steel straws, which take some getting used to, but I think are a nice alternative to disposal ones.  I used some glass jars to store some Christmas leftovers in the freezer, but I’m finding it impossible to replace all the plastic in the fridge and freezer because there is just so much of it.  I’m now really noticing that every single thing in the fridge and freezer is in a plastic container, from ice cubes to frozen packs of peas to meat from the butchers stored in cling film. I’m trying to look for alternatives but it is proving very difficult.

In the kitchen I am using glass or metal for storage of sugars and that sort of thing.  I’ve banned the buying of wipes and have got washable cloth and which I dip in a lemon/vinegar solution I make.  I’m looking for a nice bit of fabric I can use under the (metal) cat bowls instead of the plastic mat.

I had already invested in a moon/diva cup as a replacement for tampons (see previous blog), which saves on all the wrapper waste, but does leave the question about whether silicone is a good material to have for this – still I don’t think I could be persuaded to give it up.

I have a nice collection of little fabric bags given to me by my friend Sonal which I have replaced my pencil case and make up bag with.  I’m keeping some aside as I think I’ll soon find other things to put in them.  I’ve also ordered a bamboo toothbrush and will see how I find it.

I’m looking round at everything else in the house made of plastic and am looking for alternatives. I’m finding food packaging the biggest challenge, but the truth is plastic is absolutely everywhere.  I’m determined to continue, at least cutting back.   All tips gratefully received.

 

 

Reflection and response

So this time last year, I, like most people was giving and receiving high street branded toiletries for Christmas.  Since then I’ve binned them all, and it really hasn’t been that hard.  I’m at a slight advantage of course, having one friend who makes soaps and oils (Paula’a Soap Deli https://www.facebook.com/paulassoapdeli/?fref=ts) and another who is a Neals Yard Consultant (https://www.facebook.com/NYRceira/?fref=ts) but even so, it’s not that hard.

As I’ve said I no longer buy any shop creams, buying them all from Paula’s online shop and have replaced moisturiser with facial oil.  Having had a lifetime of acne I’m really surprised to see the improvements in my skin.  I use Neals Yard Arnica on my temples for headaches and for muscle ache and I’ve found TK Maxx to sell a good range of shampoo and conditioner without chemicals.  I’ve started making washing powder (lots of receipes online) and use candles, rather than plug ins to scent the house.  I use vinegar and bicarb to clean the house and I’m replacing mu body shop make up with Neals Yard alternatives.

So, my plan for 2017 is to banish plastics from the kitchen.  There are various theories around about the link between the use of plastics and cancer.  None are proven, but I cannot see any negatives of trying to use less.  I also hate the fact that plastic doesn’t decompose so is horrifically bad for the environment.  I’ve replaced the plastic containers in the bathroom and kitchen with glass and have got rid of the plastic plates, cups and spoons and made sure all the chopping boards are made from ethically sourced wood. I’ve ordered glass drinking straws (yes really).   However I am finding it very challenging to find alternatives to cling film and to get round the fact that so much food comes in plastic containers and therein lies my challenge.  Any suggestions to overcome this would be appreciated.

The other thing I’ve started is reiki.  My yoga teacher, Tammy (http://yogaxtend.com/) offers this service so I’ve given it a go.  I honestly cannot explain what reiki is, but after the sessions Tammy told me a few things she had noticed about my shakras which corresponded exactly with difficulties I was having physically and emotionally at the time.

My mindfulness lists are still going well.  Next year I want to get in the habit of doing them or journalling every day.  A friend and I also intend to start putting up our favourite uplifting phrases in places for others to see.   Our theory is that all the negative signs everywhere like ‘keep off the grass’ and ‘don’t touch’ need counteracting.

2017 should also be the year I have a mastectomy.  Weighing u the 80-87% breast cancer risk I have (caused by a hereditary faulty brca gene) and having had a wonderful service from Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals in deciding how to proceed I have now decided to go ahead with the operation and reconstruction. I’ll blog more about this next year, no doubt.

So 2017 Plans

  1. Reduce plastic useage
  2. Continue to avoid chemicals
  3. Have a mastectomy
  4. Keep up yoga and reiki
  5. Finish my counselling course
  6. Be more positive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write Yourself Happy

 

So, aside from working to banish chemicals  I’ve also been working on banishing the blues.  I’ve always been a bit of a dweller – going over the same things in my head, getting stuck in anger and the like.  At the same time I’ve always liked to be busy and cram as much into life as I can – which I think is great – but since my mum died I’ve been thinking how important it is to reflect and pause to enjoy things.  I did a mindfullness course last year (https://soshall.net/) which was great and since then I’ve been working hard to give myself a better mindset.

The first thing is I’ve become addicted to motivational and inspirational sayings (a few below) and as well as pinning my own I send them to friends.  What I’ve noticed since I started doing this is that I actually feel happier.  When something goes wrong, like being in a traffic jam (a recent 6 hour trip turned into 10) I feel calm, thinking ‘there is nothing I can do so there is no point worrying.’ If I am doing something I don’t enjoy I think ‘oh well, it’ll be over soon.’

Then I  saw an idea to write a list of things to be grateful for (family, sunsets, musicals, the smell of lemons etc).  I did this with my kids (to mixed responses, it must be said) but I loved it.  So I have brought myself a book and have started keeping lists – things that make me happy, songs I like, sounds I like, people I’d like to meet, best things that have happened, things to look forward to – and guess what?  I feel so much happier, more inspired and like life has so much more purpose.

So, I have been encouraging others to try this list thing, and am excited that some friends have got themselves books and are doing it too.  I keep mine in my handbag and add to it whenever I’m bored or just feel like it.

It does show the simplest things sometimes really are the most effective.

 

 

 

Diva Time: Chemical Free Periods

This is going to be a strange blog.  Hopefully my Dad will skip this one and I can already hear my Aunt saying ‘do you have to discuss such things?’ But I really want to spread the word about moon cups or diva cups as they are sometimes known.  Also I really think we should not treat periods as something to be ashamed of, so we might as well share my experience.

For those who don’t know a moon cup is a small silicon cup that folds up, is inserted internally, collects the blood and is then washed out and reinserted.

I’ve suffered from heavy periods which are quite debilitating for many years.  Not to get too graphic but the speed of flow has left me in many a compromising position.  I’d heard about moon cups, but having only got to grips with tampons post childbirth, had kind of assumed they were not for me.  But when I decided to cut the chemicals it seemed logical to give them a go, so on a whim I got one from the internet for the princely sum of £7.99.  I read the instructions and got to it!

Immediately I could feel the benefits.  I felt clean and comfortable.  Whereas I was sometimes changing tampons every 3 hours I only need to empty the moon cup 3 times a day.  It’s really simple to use and all you do is empty it and wash it out every 12 hours or as needed.

I’ve found it really liberating using a moon cup.  It means never spending money on periods again, it’s cleaner and worry free.  I wouldn’t say using a moon cup has changed my life, but maybe 5 days out of every 28!

Adventures and Experiments

So, I’m a few week into my ‘new lifestyle’ now so I thought I’d run through the things I’ve tried so far.

 

Washing Powder and Softener

By far the easiest change I’ve made is binning the fabric softener and using white vinegar in the draw.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any differences in the softness of the clothes.  I’ve also (aided by my friend Paula) started making washing powder which sounds a bit daunting.  I followed this receipe:

500g Borax substitute                                                                                                                                500g Soda crystals                                                                                                                                              200g grated soap                                                                                                                                                100g bicarb

This works out much cheaper than commercial washing powder.  I cannot see any difference is the quality of the clean but I do quite miss the smell of washing powder.

House Cleaner

This one is really easy.  Slice up a lemon, put it into a spray bottle and fill with half water and half white vinegar.  This lasts ages, looks lovely and cleans really well.  I leave it on the side for when it is needed.

Oven Cleaner

I saw this one on facebook.  It is testimony to my dedication to my new lifestyle that for the first time in my life I cleaned the oven.  You mix bicarb, water and vinegar to a thick, paste like consistency and spread it across the oven. Place what id left in a bowl in the oven. Heat the oven to 100 degrees and leave for 45 minutes.  I had mixed results with this.  The oven was undoubtably cleaner but not sparkling like the one in the video I watched.  I might give this another go.

Sink Unblocker

My shower plug and sink often start to drain slowly so I had regularly been pouring unblocking products down the sink.  I poured bicarb (what else?) down the plug hole until it was over flowing followed by a cup of vinegar. Half an hour later I found it was no longer draining slowly! I’m amazed by this one.

Bathing

This has been a highlight for me.  I’ve binned the bubble bath and now pour a bit of bicarb in, sometimes with epsom salts and sometimes with a few drops of lemongrass essential oil.  I love it.  I think my skin has improved and I really love the scent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misadventures in Chicken Keeping

My first step in leading a more back to basics lifestyle really began two years ago when I got a chicken coup from freecycle and 4 hybrid hens from a farm.  We (my husband, 2 sons and I) named one each and we quickly grew accustomed to four fresh eggs every morning.

I think the work involved in chicken keeping is no more than other small pets like rabbits.  You change their water and feed them every day, change their straw and clean the muck them out.  The eggs taste, honestly, about five times tastier than those from a shop which are about 4 weeks old by the time they get to the supermarket shelf.

Inevitably there is one big issue with keeping hens: foxes.  Our first gang came to an untimely end a few months after we got one.  It was not a nice experience to find them scattered across the garden.  We then upgraded our coup to an eglu with an eglu run.  This is expensive, but we saw it as an investment as it would keep the hens safe.  Yesterday I awoke for a second time to find the remains of my hens across our garden.  Unfortunately I had left the cage/run door open and a fox had obviously been passing.  Not a great experience, as you can imagine, and credit to my husband for dealing with the carcases.  I really missed cleaning them out this morning and I’ll replace them soon.  I don’t blame the fox.  It was following what comes naturally.  It is me who was to blame.

Despite these traumas I really would recommend chicken keeping to everyone.  We only have a small garden.  Although the initial outlay is big the upkeep of the hens is minimal and I absolutely love giving out eggs to friends and family.  It’s a small step towards a better way of life.  I love knowing my hens are well treated and we are not contributing towards the hen farming industry – watching hens scratching around in the dirt it is clear to see that hens don’t belong cooped up in small barns with thousands of other chickens, losing their feathers through stress and lack of space.  So my adventures with chicken keeping must continue!

 

 

Bicarb in the Bath

So I’ve started looking into the chemicals used in cosmetics.  It quickly became apparent that it is a bit of a minefield for someone like me who quit chemistry after GCSEs!  I learnt that chemicals such as ethanolamine, 1,4-dioxane and DMDM hydantoin are in many products from moisturiser to shampoo and are known or suspected human carcegenics.  There is a great organisation called The Campaign For Safer Cosmetics  (http://www.safecosmetics.org) who have a wealth of information, and, after reading a bit more I decided that I needed to seriously change my beauty products.  Why have I been filling my skin with such crap?  I’ve been assuming I can trust the cosmetic companies to look after me!  Silly ah?

I am lucky to have a friend Paula who makes natural soaps (https://www.facebook.com/paulassoapdeli) from ingredients like goats milk, shea butter and essential oils and which contain no parabans or other concerning ingrediants.  I’d been using the body soaps for a while, but now, realised I also needed to give up bubble bath as it contains the likes of sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) and cocami-dopropyl betaine and are fragranced with synthetic chemicals such as persol, making them likely to cause skin irritation, allergic skin reactions and headaches. The more I read the more I realised bubble bath and shower gel are just not needed – they provide no benefits at all.  I also started reading more about bicarbonate of soda.  As I said in my last blog I have started using it to clean the house.  But it seems baking soda bath can help neutralize skin acidity and promote elimination of toxins as well as help refresh, renew and soften dry skin.  So after a bit of online research I now add a few tea spoons of bicarb to the bath, sometimes mixing with epsom salts and sometimes with tea tree or lemon essential oils.  So far I love it.  I’ve made the bicarb look a bit prettier in the bathroom by putting in in glass mason jars!

I’ve also thrown away the toner and moisturiser – yes really.  I’ve always had rubbish, acne prone skin so was nervous about this.  After a chat with Paula I’ve switched from cleanser and toner to Pink Himalayan Salt facial soap and replaced the moisturiser with oil.  It seemed counter intuitive to use oil on my oily skin, but after doing a lot of research I decided to give it a go.  I’m never going to have model skin, but I’ve been surprised that a few people have told me my skin looks clearer over the last week. The oil I’m using (from Paula again) comprises of organic jojoba oil, apricot kernal oil, wheat germ and lavender essential oil.  I literally just use a few drops.  I’d love to hear from others doing the same.  It’s definitely a nice feeling using only natural things on my skin.