Plastic detox

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I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably.  However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage.  The real problem is the hidden plastic.  The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.

When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one.  You duly put said bag in the recycling bin.  But is it paper?  No it’s not, it is “mixed  materials not currently recyclable”  The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).

What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost.  However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable.  Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags.  These are some of the results:

Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade):  1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!

If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.

Most of us know that microbeads are not good.  They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife.  There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs.  Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt.  But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?

A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products  (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.

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I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday.  Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box!  There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park.  Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.

Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes.  All contain plastic.

When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks.  Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature.  The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it.  Not just the plastic you can see, but educate  yourself about that which  you can’t.

Love Gillie x

 

The reusable takeaway

Following on from yesterday I’m keeping to a bit of a theme.  The reusable takeaway.  We all like a good takeaway, for my husband it is a doner kebab with lots of chilli, the girls and I worship at the door of our wonderful Indian takeaway Jalsa in Ushaw Moor (their Chicken Makatoni is to die for).  BUT and there is a big but, all those plastic/styroform boxes are the pits.  At least our lovely Jalsa uses tin foil boxes so they can be recycled but still, we can do better.

I don’t drink coffee much, and when I do I like plain black from a cafetiere so all the fancy coffee shops are lost on me.  On the other hand I do like tea, I like tea a lot, I like lots of different types of tea.  I’m not a great one for buying a tea on the go, but there are times when I am out and about or waiting for a train when the only thing that I really want is a good strong cup of black tea.  But I don’t want a non-recyclable cardboard cup from Starbucks.  And they aren’t easily recyclable see here .  Those plastic coffee pods are bad, but those cardboard cups are just as nasty.

Did you know that almost every coffee shop / tea room will let you take your takeaway in your own mug/thermos so long as it has a secure lid?  This is what I take my tea away in.

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Joco glass mug with silicone lid.  It also comes in a lovely sturdy cardboard tub that I now use to store my Earl Grey!

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You met my water bottle yesterday.  I fill it up with tap water if we stop at a cafe or restaurant.  Most cold drinks come in their own bottles, but not all.  Plenty of smoothies, juices and cold coffees are made to order and are served in plastic cups.  I use my joco mug or water bottle.

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Finally food.  We have these brilliant stainless steel lunchboxes which come from the same company as the water bottle.  I’ve not yet tried them at my Jalsa (will update you when I do).  However, I have taken sandwiches, paninis, salads, pies and even a doner kebab away in it.

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Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst thing they can say is no.  I have yet to find a health and safety (the usual excuse) reason why I cannot use my own container so even if you do get a no, ask why!

 

Love Gillie x

The reusable holiday

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I’m just back from a fabulous three weeks in Romania, which is why the blog has been so quiet (that and some techy issues that seem to have been resolved).  However, I am aware that for many of you, particularly those of you with school age children, the summer holidays have only just started and you are probably packing and sorting ready for a few weeks R&R.

It doesn’t really matter where you are going, whether it’s a fortnight on the beach or hiking in the Alps, there are some things that are not just useful, but essential for a hassle-free holiday.  In our case these tend to revolve around food and drink.  We like lots of picnics, we like to try out the local foods and no holiday is complete without a beach or riverside bbq.

Most of the things required can easily be bought in the disposable picnic area of any supermarket.  But I don’t want disposable, I don’t want plastic.  I want reusuable and sustainable.  So this is what we packed to go to Romania.

Bamboo Cutlery.  One hundred percent biodegradable and compostable when they finally come to the end of their life.  In the meantime, light and easy to use.

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Food wrap.  These are great and double up as plates as well  I make my own using organic cotton and beeswax but there are plenty available online.  Just rinse with hot water.

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Drinking cups.  Well you don’t really want to be swigging the wine out of a bottle!

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Water bottles.  There is only a few things I loathe more than plastic water bottles, not only are they unneccessary for most day to day situations, they contribute to vast amounts of waste and most contain bpa which is directly linked to some cancers.

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Portable fire bowl  and grill.   This is the best thing ever!  We used to buy a disposable  bbq and reuse it all  holiday but this is one stage better and is absolutely brilliant.

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Finally, don’t forget a sharp knife, a corkscrew and/or a bottle opener!  Happy holidays:)

Love Gillie

 

it’s done

Sorry for the delay in posting the update.  I promise I did clear up in the time allocated but I have had massive problems with the internet and uploading photographs was not an option.  I think BT has decided to declutter my broadband😉

So here we are, the upstairs study

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And the Barn

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We are slowly moving stuff that we need to keep for the new building out into the outbuildings.  Meanwhile The Boss is sourcing building materials and wood, a lot of wood so it is a good job we cleared the outbuildings last year!

Love Gillie x

 

honesty and transparency

I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  It has grown to become a blog about living, or rather attempting to live a life with a smaller carbon footprint; to use what we have before we buy more; to repurpose; to make, grow and forage and to live in general with less.

Today is an honesty day, a transparent day.  We are planning building works to divide our house into two and we have been redecorating the half we will remain in.  Consequently we have had to move stuff, put stuff aside for donating/selling.  And this is what I am faced with today.IMG_2622

 

Not a pretty sight is it?

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The barn has been the dumping ground for the main house and the mezzanine has been the dumping ground for the study.

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So all you readers who think that I have a perfectly ordered and decluttered house.  I don’t.  I have a house that is a work in progress.  The redecoration is finished so there is no excuse for this mess.  The builders haven’t started yet and cannot until I empty the barn side of the house over absolutely everything including furniture.  Some will have to be stored to go back in when the work is complete but we can’t keep everything so fairly major work will be required there.

Tomorrow I promise photographs of the finished job:)

a lesson from the queen of the fairies

So maybe I got a bit too excited about the sunshine, but heck when you live in the north you celebrate every ray of golden sunlight as if it may be your last.  So I apologise if I got a little over enthusiastic and feel free to blame me for the blanket of cloud that has settled over Durham (I take no responsibility for the cloud elsewhere).

Today I saw this photograph on Facebook

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Stunning isn’t it.   The earth cradled in a blanket of cloud.

I had a blog planned inspired by this.  So off I tootled to find the original photograph to see if I could use it.  Not only can it not be credited to anyone for certain, but it is apparently for certain fake. (Snopes believes it to have been created by Mike Kiev, but others believe it to be older and created by somebody else as yet unknown). At first I was rather sad, it was such a beautiful picture and gave me hope that perhaps there is hope for this poor old planet after all.  For it to be fake ripped that out from under me.

But does it?  Just because something isn’t real doesn’t mean it can’t be powerful, give hope, succor or security.  My daughters wrote endless letters to Queen Mab (the head of the Tooth Fairies if weren’t aware of this awesome fact).  This was because one day Queen Mab wrote a long letter to a recent tooth loser.  After some days I was approached by a delegation of daughters concerned that there was something wrong with Queen Mab (Fairy Doctors to the rescue) as she had failed to reply to their last few letters.  Thinking very quickly on my feet I pointed out that as nobody had lost a tooth recently Queen Mab would not have known to check for any letters and perhaps rather than hiding them under the stair basket (I don’t know either) they should put them somewhere easier for Queen Mab to find (even fairies need a bit of help) and also let me know so that I could alert Queen Mab to the arrival of a letter.

They turned out to be prolific letter writers.  Poor Queen Mab spent a lot of time over a glass of wine practicing her curlicue writing and keeping the daughters up to date with goings on in her realm.  Changes in her handwriting were poured over and discussions as to why her “H” wasn’t as curly on one letter compared to another only served to increase the need for a glass of wine during the writing of the next letter.

Their private correspondence with the Queen of the Fairies was a source of much pride and even now all grown up, they still remember them.  And yes I did keep them all.  Some things cannot be decluttered.

So if the picture above is a fake, so what.  Enjoy the beauty if you find it beautiful, take comfort from the clouds cradling the earth and if you are sitting under a cloudy  sky and bemoaning the departure of the sun complete with his hat, then think instead of a blanket wrapping the fragile earth.

Love Gillie x

 

slippery slopes and mugs

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Not so much “how the mighty are fallen” (not least because I have never been mighty), but more “how easy it is to slip into bad habits”.

As we moved further on into our declutter process I managed to stick strictly to one in one out (remember this post ), but gradually I let a few more items in and didn’t get around to shifting out an equivalent number.  Then as that happened more than once or twice I stopped being so strict in the shop.  If you have a one in one out policy you have to (a) really want the new item and (b) know of an item you are prepared to donate in return .  There is no “whoops what fell into my basket” with one in one out shopping.

We were in Morpeth this weekend and as usual we had a wander around the charity shops (excellent by the way).  I bought two pairs of linen trousers.  I came home and as I hung them up I noticed that my small wardrobe was a little bit tight.

Today I went to make a cup of tea and had to tidy the mug shelf before something fell out.

Something had gone wrong.

The clothes issue had not got out of hand and I have caught it in time.  I like to declutter in summer because it’s easier to try on clothes and see if they still fit/I like them etc when I am not wearing enough clothes to keep Nanook of the North warm.  So I have programmed a clear out tomorrow.

The cups are a funny one, because I can’t remember the last time I bought a cup.  However, we are forever being given them.  They don’t match, I don’t particularly like them and they certainly don’t make my heart sing.  So today this lot went to the charity shop and were replaced with 6 of the beauties at the top.  I love them, they are beautiful and they serve their purpose.

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Decluttering is a forever process, because not only do you slide backwards sometimes (clothes) but you are not the only person who brings stuff into your house (mugs).  If you have a hiccough, don’t beat yourself up, just pick yourself up and start again.

Love Gillie

P.S.  Since I posted this the Father Christmas mug has been given a reprieve on the grounds that it was abducted by The Boss and Singer 1.