Monday, 4 September 2017

Tea for terrible

More and more is coming out about the tea industry's practise of adding plastic to tea bag material, which appears to be a universal one. I buy loose tea in general, but use tea bags at work because of its brewing convenience and I then compost the bags. However, I recently wrote to the producers of the tea I buy, Planet Organic, asking what their tea bag material comprised of. They admitted to adding synthetic fibres to natural ones and, interestingly, made this assertion:
"After the natural fibres have decomposed, the sythentic fibres which will
only degrade very slowly may remain as a fibre matrix. When this is exposed
to mechanical wear ( for example restacking the compost ) the synthetic
fibre matrix ruptures and disintegrates into small fibre fragments which can
assist with soil quality."
I was, of course, very quick to ask for clarification on how plastic might aid soil quality, but am still waiting for an answer several weeks later. It appears the tea industry isn't prepared to take responsibility for their plastic footprint and would rather focus their energy on presenting false information thinly disguised in quasi-scientific polysyllabic jargon. For goodness sake, how stupid do they think we are?
Needless to say, I now drink loose tea at work.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Are you up for the challenge?

Plastic Free July allows you to sample removing single use plastic from your life, and the beauty of the challenge is that you can make it hard or as easy as you want.
Go to the Plastic Free July website to sign up for a day, a week, or a month. You get to choose the type of plastic you want to remove from your shopping over the month.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Worms that eat plastic?

Does this sound too good to be true? I'm no scientist, but I can't believe any organism can sustain itself on synthetic material. How does it work? I would love an explanation.
If it is the breakthrough that it has been heralded as, hurrah! It could be an incredible solution to cleaning up plastic pollution.
However, what I want to see is a breakthrough in plastic and, preferably, single use alternatives. Most of the plastic pollution iniatives are focused on the end of the line, not the start of it, which is where we (desperately) need to be looking.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

DIY deoderant - more effective than anything you can buy

I can't rave about this deoderant enough. I've never had one work anywhere near as well, and I've used all sorts; commercial anti-persperants, through to all-natural, store bought  products.

It's dead easy to make:
Melt 5 tablespoons of coconut oil, mix in two tablespoons of baking soda, and add 10 drops of lavender oil.
Pour it into a jar and keep stirring, otherwise the baking soda will sink to the bottom. Once it's set, you just use your fingers to apply it to your armpits. It will last all day (at least).

What's in it:
Coconut oil - lots of vitamin E (great for your skin)
Baking Soda - this is the deoderiser, and it is very effective (sprinkle some in your smelly shoes)
Lavender oil - antibacterial and antifungal properties
There is nothing nasty that your skin can absorb, like you
get in anti-persperants. However, you will sweat. It only
stops that sweat from smelling.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Plastic-free cleaning

Most of us who have the desire to use less plastic, are also interested in using fewer chemicals. The good news is that is easy to be both plastic and chemical free with cleaning products.

Hot water
I only clean my wooden floors with hot water. There's no need for any additives, though it is sensible to use an antimicrobial, like vinegar, around toilets. Remember, it is normal and beneficial to have bacteria in our homes if managed well.

Cream cleanser
For basins, showers and baths I use a home-made cream cleanser, the ingredients of which I can buy in bulk, free of plastic packaging:
Mix several teaspoons of baking soda with a good dollop of eco dish washing liquid. Stir to make a paste. Simple!

Is perfect for areas where we typically use antibacterial products. Vinegar has antimicrobial and antioxidising properties. Its acidic nature allows it to break down sticky residues, and mineral deposits like lime scale. I use vinegar for cleaning the toilet and disinfecting my chicken coop, and can source it in bulk.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ethical dilemmas; choosing the lesser evil

Every now and then I am faced with a tough choice due to my plastic avoidance, and sometimes it is necessary to choose a product that has plastic wrapping or packaging that can't be recycled because there's another cause I feel strongly about and want to support.
For example, buying fairtrade or local products, or boycotting products because of the manner of their manufacture.

Recently I have started to buy butter that isn't in recyclable wrapping. I love butter, and it is easy to buy in compostable packaging because most blocks are wrapped in paper. However, as a conscious consumer I am moving more and more away from supporting New Zealand's dairy industry. This industry is our our single biggest polluter. The cows release large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and has more effect on the atmosphere than the same amount of carbon. The run off from the cows' waste pollutes waterways. 60% of New Zealand's waterways are officially no longer safe to swim in, yet the industry continues to grow, and is encouraged to grow by our current government.

However, my recent switch to the below product is not just a result of my concern about pollution; it's my concern about dairying practices. The reason our farms can produce so much milk is by producing babies (it is breast milk after all). Most farms will have their cows constantly either pregnant or producing milk with no or little rest period, and the calves are often removed from their mothers within two days (what emotional toll does that take on both creatures?). Furthermore, there has been great controversy around the way 'bobby' or boy calves are treated. They are considered to have little value, and can be treated incredibly badly during their short lives (they tend to be the 'veal' in the supermarket).
Organic Times' farms ensure all calves are
rehomed. Plus, being organic, their farming
practices are less intensive than standard
farms and therefore have less environmental
impact BUT the wrapping is plastic lined tinfoil.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fantastic local business for plastic-free baby products

If you are concerned about the toxins your child may be absorbing, check out Haakaa for their amazing range of baby products.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cat love conundrum

My elderly cat, whom I love dearly, has decided that she no longer wants to eat cat biscuits, even if I soak them for her so that they are easier to eat. The problem is that I can buy the biscuits in large bags that have very little plastic, thereby reducing my plastic waste, and so I'm not happy with the alternative:

Plastic sachets that only do
one meal. Eeek!

I had always said when I started this journey that I wouldn't compromise my health or the health of my animals, so I am really having to compromise on my values here.

And I certainly won't compromise on the quality of food for my cat. Yes I can buy tins of wet cat food at the supermarket, but they are effectively like feeding my cat MacDonalds. The above brand is excellent and offers food designed for aging cats (and my cat loves it) BUT I hate the waste. 

If anybody has suggestions for an alternative, plastic-free wet cat food source that is tailored to old cats, I would love to know (she has done raw food, and lost interest pretty quickly, so that one is out).

Monday, 4 July 2016

Three years living without plastic

This month marks my third year of living single-use plastic free. My year of living completely plastic free has entrenched habits and I now find it very easy to have a plastic-free lifestyle. I also find it easy to avoid purchasing multi-use plastic (with resourcefulness, alternatives can often be found).

You can start this journey too. This month is Plastic Free July.

It is an excellent way to challenge yourself if you'd like to give reducing your plastic consumption a go. It's also a very good tool for creating awareness of plastic issues (people will be intrigued by you're what doing).

There are two challenges:

  • not purchasing any single use plastic
  • not purchasing the top four (straws, coffee cup lids, plastic shopping bags, plastic drink bottles).

Visit the Plastic Free July webpage or facebook page for more details.

You can choose to do the challenge for a day, a week, or a month.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Plastic free pasta

I love pasta, and while I can buy dried pasta in bulk and therefore avoid the plastic packaging, I don't like the taste. It can ruin a lovingly cooked sauce. Really, fresh pasta is the only way if you are an Italian food enthusiast, but it is impossible to buy sans plastic.

With the purchase of a rolling pin, I have now turned my hand to making pasta. It is very straight forward. Here's how:
A completely plastic-free meal, with
home-made bread, pesto and pasta.
Delicious and easy!
1. Whisk 2 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. 
2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add three large eggs and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
3. Once the dough becomes too thick to whisk with a fork, turn it out onto a clean work surface, along with any leftover flour from the bowl. Knead the dough and remaining flour until you’ve got a smooth, stiff ball of dough.
4. Cover the dough (I cover with waxed cloth) and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
5.Divide the dough into four portions.
6. Take one portion and roll as thin as you can in a rectangular shape. You will need plenty of extra flour.
7. Fold the dough loosely over itself several times (almost as if you are rolling it into a wide ball). Cut the ball into thin strips and shake out so that the strips are at their entire length.
8. Repeat for remaining three portions.
9. Cook in boiling water for several minutes until al dente.