I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Wrapping Paper

Lets start with the facts: approximately 50,000 TREES are used to make 8,520 TONNES of gift wrap used at Christmas in the UK each year. 50,000 trees. If this isn’t enough, most wrapping paper is in fact NOT RECYCLABLE, due to being laminated, dyed, coated with plastic and glitter, and of course sticky tape.

Here are some alternatives to keep your Christmas conscious and bright:

Furoshiki

how_to_furoshiki_diagram
image: Japanese Department of Environment

This Japanese tradition of cloth wrapping has been around for over 1200 years, and has seen a resurgence is recent years due to more awareness about single-use waste. This is what I personally use and my family and friends have never been disappointed! Last year, I went thrifting around all the charity shops locally and grabbed some pretty scarfs and fabrics, I even have a specific ‘birthday scarf’ (see balloons below).

 

 

Make Your Own

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image: http://www.cosymore.com/diy-gift-wrapping-paper/

Here is a great tutorial on making your own printed wrapping paper. Brown parcel paper is recyclable (as long as you don’t cover it in glitter!) and can be printed with potatoes, painted with trees, polka dots, whatever sparks your imagination. Decorating wrapping paper with Christmassy foliage is also a wonderful way to ‘spruce’ it up (excuse the pun), such as pine branches, holly leaves, or dried orange slices.

 

Buy Mindfully

I want this blog to be inclusive and write about things that are attainable for everyone, and not everyone has time to print wrapping paper or search charity shops for the perfect Christmas scarf. Caring about the environment is not only for those who are privileged with time/money/patience.

When buying wrapping paper, try to feel the paper, if it is shiny/glittery/metallic/foil like, then it is most likely not recyclable. There are lots of ‘real papers’ out there, which should feel like your normal pages from a notebook. Oxfam also stock a lovely range of recycled papers, so pop in to one of their stores and see if it takes your fancy.

 

Happy mindful wrapping!

Jx

 

 

resource: wrapping paper facts

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I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Presents

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but not for the planet. In this series, I aim to give you all ideas on how to reduce your waste and be kind to the planet, and your pocket, this December.

First on the list is presents, with Black Friday approaching, many people aim to get their shopping done early, or online, to avoid the rush. Last year, the UK spent a record-breaking £77.56 billion on their Christmas shopping – that’s almost double the European average. So, how can we spend less, get great gifts for our loved ones, and save the planet?

Whenever I need to buy a present, I always refer to Sarah Lazarovic’s “Buyerarchy of Needs” (I feel that borrow & swap are not really useful for presents!):

1. Thrift

Have an idea of what you want to get? Thrifting, or buying second hand, is a brilliant way to get presents. You can pop down to your local charity shops, but this can be time-consuming and you may not find exactly what you’re looking for. Looking online is a quicker and sure-fire way to find exactly what you want. Vintage/retro items are always in style in my opinion, and many items listed as ‘second hand’ are often brand new, without tags, or worn once. a-bunch-of-pretty-1

Some great sites are eBay, Gumtree, Preloved, Etsy (select vintage filter when searching), and Depop is perfect for clothes/shoes. When you get to the payment page, you can also type a message to the seller asking for minimal/eco-friendly packaging, and they have almost always done this for me. I normally write something like:

 

“Hello, I am trying to live a minimal waste/eco-friendly lifestyle, so could this item be sent in recyclable/biodegradable packaging, please? Thank you so much!”

2. Make

This one may seem daunting, but these presents really do come from the heart. We’re not talking a full winter coat sewn by hand, or an artistic masterpiece, if that’s not your style – work with the skills you have! I believe everyone has creativity, some people just haven’t nurtured it yet. Let’s look at a few classic gifts for inspiration:

Bath Bombs

As lovely as LUSH is, I know how expensive a Christmas trip there can be. Good news,

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abeautifulmess.com

bath bombs are surprisingly easy and cheap to make! You can get citric acid from Amazon or Wilko. Find a recipe here.

 

Christmas Hamper

I make my grandparents a hamper every year and I truly believe it’s one of the best presents to give, as they enjoy their gift for months after Christmas. Granted, it does take up a lot of time because I choose to make about six different things (with the help of my mum tbh) but you could definitely make something less complicated! Think of your favourite flavours of cookies, mince pies, crackers, chocolate bark (literally melt bars of chocolate, drizzle on a pan,

2187971_Christmas_Hamper_Mobile_Portrait
fortnumandmason.co.uk

sprinkle with nuts or dried fruit/add flavouring, then snap it up into “bark”!!) Whip up a batch, pop it in a nice upcycled jar or tin, and you have the perfect gift! If you’re feeling more adventurous, Christmas chutneys or jams are also a lovely gift. You can also buy things that you can’t make, and then you can fit the size and contents of your hamper to your budget and tastes (not everyone is lucky enough to get a Fortnum and Mason hamper)

 

Lastly, grab a cuppa, and settle down in front of Pinterest for some incredible DIY gift inspiration. This list is pretty extensive and has some great ideas.

3. Buy

One last thing on the checklist. If the above options fail you, that’s okay! I always try my best to find a zero waste solution, but sometimes there just isn’t one, and there’s no point beating yourself up about it! When buying new, how about checking Etsy or searching for local artists/designers/makers to support? Supporting small businesses is really important, and you can get all the usual bath bombs, soaps, jewellery, hats, etc, handmade with love. Finally, buying experiences/charity gifts are the least likely to generate any waste. It could be as extravagant as a weekend away in Rome, or a nice dinner for two at your favourite restaurant, or (in the case of my aunties and Mum) buying a goat for a family in Africa. (give me a goat)

 

Happy making/shopping!

Jx

 

Zero Waste Favourites

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left to right, top to bottom: soap nuts, kleen kanteen water bottle, cotton tote bag, drawstring bag, solid soap, lush shampoo bar, reuseable coffee cup, steel lunchbox, safety razor, bamboo toothbrush, reusable makeup wipes.

In this post I want to discuss some of the things that have really helped me to produce less waste. I have been compiling these items for almost a year, so please do not think you must buy everything at once. Make it affordable and sustainable for you, as well as the planet!

Soap Nuts

An all natural, bio-degradable, laundry detergent. You simply put four nuts into the little bag provided, and these last for 4 washes. Then, simply compost them! I add essential oils to the bag for fragrance.

Reusable water bottle

I chose a Kleen Kanteen bottle, as it is made from sustainable materials like stainless steel, with a bamboo cap and small silicone ring. It is around £20 on Amazon, so not the cheapest, but there are much cheaper ones available to suit all budgets. I take this bottle everywhere. I always have a packed lunch, and just throw it in my bag on days out so I’m never left without a drink. Bringing a reusable bottle is one of the best choices you can make!

Reusable tote bag

Reusable bags are another amazing way to reduce your impact. I have collected quite a few over the years, often at Vegfest. It’s a great opportunity to support your favourite charity or artist, while saving the planet. These bags have endless uses, and a huge life span.

Drawstring bag

This is my potato bag, hence it’s dirty appearance! The best way to avoid fruit and veg packaging is to go to your local green grocer, or farmer’s market, or unpackaged items in the supermarket – that’s where these drawstring bags really come in handy. My mum and I made this one from an old pillowcase, simply by cutting it in half, hemming the edges, then folding them over and sewing it, so there was a small tunnel to feed some canvas ribbon through. I will do a full post on this if it’s wanted! There are always plenty of pillowcases in charity shops if you don’t have one lying around, or many shops stock pre-made versions.

Solid soap

This is the newest edition to my kit! I bought it in an amazing local shop called Ethica in Plymouth. It wasn’t completely package free, as it came wrapped in paper, but it is recyclable. Bar/solid soap is a great switch to reduce your plastic packaging, and you can find amazing, local, handmade soap on Etsy, or a local health shop like I did. The cosmetics industry bombards us daily with ten different products that actually all do the same thing. Soap is soap! Use it on your hands, face, body, hair, to shave, to clean clothes… the list goes on. It feels very liberating to break free from 101 different products.

Shampoo bar

In the UK, our selection of ‘bulk’ stores are almost exclusively in London, but luckily LUSH is doing a great job in providing us with package free cosmetics. I bought the tin with my first shampoo bar, and now I take it back every time – easy and package free!
 

Reusable coffee cup

Although I don’t drink coffee, I often pack this cup just in case a disposable might be used, such as outdoor events or lazy cafes. This is another amazing change to make, and some shops will even give you money off for bringing your own! 

Lunchbox

Bringing your own lunch is a fail safe way to save money and the environment. I bought two of these stainless steel lunchboxes on Amazon to start off my collection. I also use the plastic tubs that you get takeaway in, as they are a perfect portion size! They are great to store leftovers in (no cling film needed here), freeze portions of a bulk meal, and generally handy around the house for storage. 

 Safety razor

If you shave, you might like to consider a safety razor. The razor is stainless steel, and the blades are replaceable and recyclable, or you can sharpen them! I don’t use my very often, but I can say it’s very smooth and easy to use, and I’ve only had one cut from it! 

Bamboo toothbrush

Plastic toothbrushes are non-recyclable, and are one of the worst offenders for polluting the oceans. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, and does not require fertiliser or chemicals as it provides this for itself naturally. It also has antibacterial properties, and is compostable, making this a wonderful, sustainable solution. 

Reusable makeup wipes

This was my very first zero waste switch! After looking in my bin at what I was throwing away, I saw most of it was face wipes. I go onto Etsy, and found so many different options, all UK based. I settled on these organic cotton and hemp pads, and haven’t looked back. You will need a makeup remover such as an oil, or store brought, and then just dab on and wipe off. I wash them by hand with some Dr Bronners soap when they get dirty and dry them on my radiator. Quick, easy, simple planet saving solution. 
 

Zero Waste, Zero Cost: Bathroom

In most modern homes, we don’t think twice about our water consumption. Fresh, clean water is available to us whenever we turn on the tap, and in a seemingly infinite supply. In actual fact, water is a finite resource. Although 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, only 2.5% of this is fresh water, and most of that is frozen in the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland. This leaves less than 1% available for animals and people to use.

Although this is replenished via the water cycle, a growing population is putting ever-more strain on the system, meaning we all need to be more conscious of our water usage.

In the UK, the average person uses 150 litres per day.

If you have a water metre, or if you don’t (heating water accounts for about 30% of your gas bill), making small changes can also save you a lot of money!

Here are some simple tips to reduce or be mindful of your water consumption:

Running the tap unnecessarily 

A running tap wastes over 6 litres of water per minute! Turn it off while brushing your teeth (1.5 minutes) and you could save 18 litres of water per day. Such a small change, such a significant difference! When you shave, or wash your face, run a bowl of water so the tap isn’t running constantly.

Leaking taps

A leaky tap can waste about 5.500 litres per year, so crack that spanner out and tighten it up!

Baths

A bath typically requires 80 litres of water, but switching to a shower uses about a third of the water. A relaxing bath is nice once in a while, but do you really need one every day? If you do, you could consider sharing the bath with someone, which would half your usage.

Shower time

The average shower in the UK last for 8 minutes, using about 62 litres of water (more powerful showers can use up to 136 litres!)

Each minute you shave off your shower will save on average 7.75 litres, so taking a 4 minute shower, instead of an 8 minute one, would save you 30 litres of water each time you shower. This not only saves water, but money on your heating bills.

You can also:

  • Fit a water-saving tap aerator, which can reduce the flow of water by up to 10 litres per minute
  • Wash your hair less frequently (and use dry shampoo in between),
  • Not shower every day (shock horror!) and wash in the sink
  • For real dedication, not shower at all – queue one of my all-time favourite people, Rob Greenfield.

The toilet

Flushing the toilet uses around 9 litres of water. If you don’t have a dual-flush toilet, you can use a “cistern displacement device”, which is a fancy way of saying a bottle filled with water and submerged in the cistern.They work by displacing water in your cistern so that the volume of water in your flush is reduced by between 1 – 3 litres. Many modern toilets are dual flush models, which use as little as 2.6 and 4 litres per flush, so only 20% compared with older toilets, while composting toilets use no water at all.

You can also:

  • If it’s yellow, let it mellow. I’ll leave you to think about that one.
  • Collect shower water when it’s warming up, then pour this in your cistern.
  • Don’t use your toilet as a bin – flushing away snotty tissues or baby wipes isn’t good for anyone – they cause serious problems at water treatment plants and waste a lot of water.

 

Thank you for caring,

Happy savings,

Jx

image credit

One Month of Trash

I have finally reached the stage where I can collect all my non-recyclable waste in a small 16 oz/453g tub. It has made it so much easier to see what I am throwing away, so I can learn how to reduce it and what changes I can make.

I organised it into categories, from left to right: chocolate wrappers, general food wrappers, medication, out of date members cards, foil seal on products like tomato ketchup, plastic wrap, sticky tape and stickers.

Things I have learnt from keeping hold of trash:

I am a massive chocoholic, but have switched to Co-Op own brand dark chocolate, as it is wrapped in card and foil, which are both recyclable at kerbside where I live.

I have reduced the amount of snacks I buy and choose to make my own, and plan to freeze my own peas when they come into season in the summer.

I hope this helps you on your journey,

Jx

Zero Waste, Zero Cost: Kitchen

This is the first in a series of posts about how to cut waste, with no cost at all!

The humble fridge

The biggest, and most expensive appliance in the average home, and not one you can just switch off! Setting your fridge to the correct temperature (between 4 and 5 degrees) can save you money on your bill, and save your leftovers thus reducing food waste!

The hob

Choosing the right sized hob ring for your pot, and putting the lid on, allows you to turn the heat down when boiled, reducing cooking time and waste. A stacked steamer is a great way of utilising the energy of one hob for multiple items of food.

The oven

Another energy guzzler, the oven is great for a Sunday dinner but ask yourself if you really need it for two (veggie) sausages? When using, try not to open the door very often. In winter, you could even leave the door open after you’ve turned it off to add a little heat to your home!

The kettle

If we only boil the amount of water we actually need when we use the kettle, in a year we could save enough electricity to power the UK’s street lights for nearly seven months. If that’s not convincing enough for you I don’t know what is! (Energy Saving Trust)

The washing machine

  • wait for a full load
  • washing at 30 degrees uses up to 40% less energy than other temperatures (Energy Saving Trust)

The dishwasher

If you have the luxury of one, wait for a full load, or wash things by hand that are needed ASAP. You can also use the “economy” setting.

 

Image credit: marceladick.com

 

 

 

Making an Ethical Life Accessible

In order to decide something is morally wrong, boycott it and change our lifestyle, we first have to know it is wrong, and have the means to support our ethical choice. 

I do believe a certain amount of all ‘ethical’ lifestyle choices require privileges of money, time, and access to education. As a vegan, I see a large amount of “easy recipes” that are made with expensive ingredients most people haven’t heard of. While this of course shows the versatility of a vegan diet, it largely makes veganism quite inaccessible. When making such a challenging lifestyle change, genuinely simple recipes of classic favourites are much more likely to encourage change.

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.”
— Aristotle

The idea of a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle is  also very inspiring, but it currently seems to manifest in swanky-looking, minimalist kitchens full of glass jars, an immaculate Instagram feed, and an expectation of general base knowledge of waste and it’s impacts are required. I have been very lucky in my education, both from school and my parents, in being taught to separate recycling from general waste, I even had a compost bin at home, and being told the environmental impacts of our disposable lifestyles, so making the next step to Zero Waste seemed a natural transition,  but for others, it may seem very daunting and indeed, impossible. 

Another issue I would like to address is while making your own toothpaste, shampoo, body lotion, washing detergent, etc, will save you money in the long run, and may be accessible to small budgets, we must also remember the currency that is time. Many people do not have the privilege of time to make these items, or live in an area where the ingredients are easily accessible. Similarly, buying “cruelty-free” products is sadly not the cheapest option much of the time, and requires research and time to find the products in the first place. I have chosen to dedicate a large portion of my time and my brain power to this cause, because I truly believe in it, it is very hard to make commitments to causes that are not directly effecting you, and dedicate time to making cosmetics, food from scratch, new recipes, after working the standard 8 hour+ day, in the hectic, fast paced world we live in.

 

I would like to change this. I want to create a space on the internet where making changes towards a kinder life, protecting our planet, and the animals we share it with, is not just for a select few. The only way we will truly save the world, is together.