The amount of microplastics that we are releasing into our waterways each year is truly terrifying. I mean, it’s at the point now where we may as well call this planet ‘Plastic’ rather than ‘Earth’. Dreadful, I know.

Kynance Cove

A main culprit is clothing made of synthetic fabrics. Nylon, polyester, and acrylic are in so many of our clothes and they shed tiny microplastic fibres in the washing machine when on a cycle. Hundreds of thousands of them – microscopic in size – make their way into our water supply. Did you know that 72% of UK tap water now has microplastics in it? The percentage is even more alarming stateside, with 94.4% of tap water contaminated across the pond.

So while you might be making steps towards consuming less plastic packaging (which, don’t get me wrong, is fecking awesome), the very garments you’re living your ‘aspiring zero-waste’ life in might be undoing all your hard work.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you care about making the world better in more ways than one. So, as well as reducing your plastic consumption, you likely also support renewable energy, fair trade and the slow fashion movement amongst other things. You just want to be a good human, in other words.

If there’s one change I could encourage you to make, it would be to only introduce natural fibres into your life from now on. When the time comes to purchase a new garment or textile in the form of a towel, cleaning cloth or bedding, consider something made of biodegradable materials.

It can be really confusing when you see things like ‘recycled plastic’ on the label. Whether it be plastic bottles recycled into a fleece jacket or into a kitchen sponge. On the one hand, it’s commendable that a company has taken a waste product and created something out of it. However, whether it’s new plastic, or recycled, if it’s going to be washed, it’s going to pollute our seas. That’s the simple truth of it. Until someone invents a ridiculously fine mesh filter and fits all washing machines with it, our synthetic fibres are doing no good. Therefore, might I suggest that when the time comes, you look at something, well, better?

Sustainable textiles brands are already limited, so to throw this into the mix as well I realise is frustrating. However, the more it becomes common knowledge of this way that we’re polluting our water with clothing, the more brands are likely to jump on the bandwagon and support the natural fibre movement.

Support cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, silk, wool, rayon, jute, ramie, lyocell and tencel. And a nifty little one to introduce into your kitchen and bathroom cleaning stash is a luffa – totally compostable scrubby vegetable fibres. Scrub away, and when it’s knackered, compost it and get a new one. Forget all these synthetic cleaning cloths and scourers – opt for natural instead.

 

 

 

 

Photos: Sphynx

These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

Cliffs of Moher

But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a café or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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Cruelty-free and Vegan

A few years ago, when I decided to no longer purchase cosmetics produced by brands that consent to animal testing where it’s required by law, I felt proud of my decision. Don’t get me wrong, I have every day since, too. But something I’ve grown to realise over the past couple years is that that alone isn’t enough for my ‘ethical purchasing consciousness’. I want every purchase I make to feel good. I want it to feel right. And despite the advantage of purchasing cruelty-free and vegan, I’ve realised that it isn’t enough. There are numerous other aspects to consider, such as quality of ingredients, packaging, ethics of production etc. These things have been niggling. I’m at the point now, where I simply can’t deny them.

The global cosmetics market is estimated to be worth around €181 billion. And I can’t see this figure decreasing any time soon. With influence thrown left, right and centre from Youtube, Bloggers, and Instagram as well as the more traditional television and magazine advertisements, we are bombarded. Those promoting cruelty-free and/or vegan brands totally get my praise. Many people still don’t realise that while we don’t test on animals here in the UK, many of the brands sold here are also sold in China where it’s required by law. (If you aren’t familiar already, Logical Harmony is where it’s at for determining the ethics of products before you purchase them.)

There are obviously some great things that come out of purchasing CF & V options. Firstly, you aren’t supporting the trade in China. Secondly, you’re choosing to support more compassionate consumption. Thirdly, you’re getting the ball rolling and increasing awareness. But I’ve realised that these aren’t the only ethics to be aware of in the consumption of beauty products. What about the formulation? Are you willing to use potentially harmful ingredients that can bioaccumulate in your body so long as it means that you aren’t supporting animal testing? Do you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? And what about landfill? Do the brands you support have an environmental policy? Is the packaging recyclable? Do they encourage you to bring it back to counter/store? Some brands who do support animal testing actually offer these. There are mixed priorities, clearly.

But the thing that I question is the ethical supply chain, or perhaps lack of, in many CF & V drugstore brands. It really can be summarised like this: 99% of the time the more you pay, the better quality you’re going to get. By ‘better quality’, I mean better ingredients with smarter formulas, more innovative packaging and probably happier staff who are producing those products for you.

It goes in the same category as ‘fast fashion’ for me. Granted, cosmetics won’t last you nearly as long as a piece of clothing if you look after it, but is it better to purchase every shade of a cheap drugstore blush for the same price as one high quality option from a niche brand? Depends on what your priorities are, I suppose.

The cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics market is still in the minority sector. That’s going to be the case for at least a few more years. But in the meantime, I encourage you to do your research on the brands you’re purchasing from. Go further than CF & V as your check boxes and ask questions like:

  • How am I going to recycle this packaging when the product is empty?
  • What ingredients are used in this formula?
  • Where is this product made and by whom?

There’s no one out there doing things perfectly. We’re either producing trash or driving around in pertroleum-fuelled cars or whatever else that’s harming the planet. It’s a constant quest for improvement. But I feel that as long as you’re on the path, that’s really what matters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to encourage your favourite brands to go one step further in becoming more ethical in their production.

If money is the issue, before you feel the pressure to buy luxury brands in recyclable glass bottles that cost you your whole month’s salary for one product, consider DIY instead. Keep it simple. Invest in a jar of high quality organic coconut oil that is multi-purpose and can allow you to make some of your own products.

Be mindful and ask questions about everything you’re purchasing. Remember: what you spend your money on is what you’re investing energy in. Make sure those purchases align with your values.

Photo via Unsplash

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Before I lived in this apartment, I was in a shared house. In this shared house, the communal areas were cleaned by our gracious landlady. It was great – she did an incredible job and it meant that we the housemates never fought over who’s job it was to clean. Everything really was scrubbed to perfection and it made living with so many others relatively pleasant.

The only thing was, after she’d been there would be that familiar, lingering scent of bleach all up the stairwell and into the kitchen. I get it – I do – she was just sanitising the surfaces. This is what most people do. However I loathe the smell of bleach. I think I always have, but especially after working in a laboratory where bleach becomes a cling-on on the first day.

So the house would be clean, but the bleach would be etched into the surface of my nostrils for hours post. It would almost make me want to hibernate for a little bit before venturing out of my room. It physically made me nauseous and would induce a headache.

When I moved into an apartment with Jonny, I saw the opportunity to consciously think about which cleaning products we were going to use. Hardly the most exciting aspect of moving in with the person you love, but important none-the-less. There’s nothing romantic about sharing dinner and a glass of wine if your surroundings are disgusting, right?

By the time we came to shop for essentials for our totally unfurnished space, I had compiled a list of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that I was determined to place under our new kitchen sink. It is now a year later and bleach hasn’t even tried to make an appearance. Irritation no more!

Below are my essentials. I totally encourage you to consider these if you’re wanting to make the move to products that keep agitated skin and environmental pollution to a minimum.

  1. E-cloths – These are by far the best discovery. Long-lasting, machine washable cloths interwoven with the finest of fibre threads that remove bacteria from surfaces. All you need is cloth + water to do the job. No product required. I use this for wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows and mirrors.
  2. Ecover & Method – these are two cruelty-free, plant-based brands that produce a whole array of cleaning products. When water just won’t cut it, or for bathroom cleaning products, I reach for these natural brands. Most supermarkets will stock the basics from these brands, otherwise I recommend Ethical Superstore if you want to pick up some more specialist items.
  3. Baking soda & Vinegar – When the drain is blocked, instead of reaching for those life-destroying, vomit-inducing ‘solutions’ that annihilate everything in their path, try something more fun: baking soda and vinegar. These two will clean just about anything, from a kitchen sink to a carpet stain. Check this article out for great recipes.
  4. Michael’s Original – these scourers are made from biodegradable plant fibres and do an awesome job at everything from scrubbing limescale in a shower to cleaning root vegetables. These are great because there’s nothing to throw away from them…they just wear away over time.

I feel that a home should be a safe and sacred place. Treating it with kindness and respect is a great start. I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for cleaning, by any means, but I do care about my impact on the planet. Oh, and my health. For me, it starts here.

Photo via Unsplash

 

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