presents and plastic

So it is the 2nd of September.  That means two things.  I need to make sure I have my mother’s birthday present (tick) and we are day two into the month of no (or at least as little as possible) plastic.

Mother’s present was quite easy.  As I don’t think she reads my blog I can tell you she should be enjoying a rather nice lunch with my stepfather in a rather nice restaurant in London.  No plastic was involved in the purchase, preparation or sending of said present and I sincerely hope that there is no plastic involved in the serving of her present either.  Though unfortunately I cannnot vouch for the kitchen in which it will be prepared.

As for the September challenge.  We have hardly done any shopping and have already failed.

Sunday newspapers – the supplements come in a pre-sealed plastic bag.  I imagine it makes the assembly easier, however I remember Sunday newspapers as a child and there was no plastic bag then.  My father gets the LA Times which is vast and there is no plastic there either.  Letter to Sunday Times on its way.

Quayside market.  Wonderful produce from local producer.  One beauty of a swede.

DSC_1696

Gorgeous selection of onions.

DSC_1697

Beautiful variety of tomatoes.

DSC_1698

But I had failed to bring any small cloth or paper bags for the tomatoes and they were put in plastic.  Have now added one cloth and three paper bags to the little parachute silk Onya bag that lives in my handbag.

Then absolute  massive fail whilst my back was turned.  The Boss as a bit of a sock thing.  He likes them brightly coloured and not necessarily matching.  He bought a set of three pairs of very attractive stripey socks and….. let the stallholder put them in a solitary plastic bag all of their own.  I had THREE Onya bags they could have gone in.  He has promised to be more vigilant in the future.

DSC_1699

 

Today I have purchased some wine (glass bottles that will be used for homemade wine), fruit juice (cartons that will be used as firelighters) and carrots (bought loose). All brought home in one of my plastic free hessian bags.

 DSC_1695

 

On all occasions I refused a receipt.  Nobody seemed too surprised or fussed.  So I wonder, would shops which issue receipts automatically consider having a no receipt option on their till at the buyer’s risk?

Tonight I will do the menu plan for next week and write out my weekly shopping list.  I will have to plan very carefully.  I suspect what we eat will be dictated by where I can buy the necessary ingredients without incurring the input of plastic.  Fortunately the hens are still laying so we will always have the egg option.  Although as I was planning on using up the last of the asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce tonight they had better get laying!

 

first steps

I’ve had a tremendous response to my announcement about going plastic free.  Thank you very much.  However, it is rather daunting, perhaps I should have kept quiet and then my failures (I am not so naïve as to think there will be none) will not be so public.  So striking whilst the iron is hot, here is update number one.

 

  • Plastic chopping boards have been put away.  We still have two wooden ones so they were surplus to requirements anyway.
  • I cannot find any dog, cat, poultry, parrot or fish food that doesn’t come packaged in plastic.  I will have a word with our feed supplier.  We are good customers so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Toiletry containers.  I make my own toner with rosewater and witch hazel and store that in metal bottles, but the bulk rosewater and witch hazel comes in plastic …….  I’ve got quite enough moisturiser and oil for the moment and will use them up but can see this might be problematic.
  • cleaning products.  I tend to use bicarb, vinegar and essential oils for most house cleaning and have bought metal trigger spray cannisters for the bathrooms.  I am experimenting with soapnuts.  I have plenty of washing up liquid and dishwasher powder for the moment.  When it needs replacing I can get loose dishwasher powder in cardboard.  Washing up liquid  will be more of a challenge.  Back to bicarb?
  • Food.  A whole post on its own I think!
  • Cd and dvd.  I got rid of the cases years ago and store them in specialist folders to reduce space.  New music and films can be downloaded.
  • I rarely take a plastic bag as I have always had  my own and have two onya bags that live in my handbag for emergencies.  However, the rest of the family is not so observant.
  • Freezer bags and Tupperware.  I know that you can freeze in glass but it will take time to build up a suitable collection of containers.  We use our freezer a lot.  We buy whole sheep, we have a large orchard and fruit garden  I freeze tons of fruit.  I often bulk cook and place additional meals in the freezer.  I make stock with every carcass …..
  • Medicine bottles.  I noted that Bea Johnson conceded that their medicine cupboard was the one area where she had not managed to avoid all packaging so I don’t feel quite so bad.
  • Diary cartons.  The milkman won’t deliver to us as we are too far out but he will deliver to the castle and I can pick up from there.  I can easily go back to making my own yoghurt and soft cheese.  That leaves cream/crème fraiche.
  • My pencil case is leather but the girls have to have clear pencil cases for their exams.  Short of having a glass box I am not sure how to avoid plastic here.
  • Junk mail.  I admire anyone who has managed to get their junk mail reduced, I am fighting an endless battle, one step forward two steps back.
  • I have been wanting a new watering can for the garden and the house for a long time so now I can get one!  Garden hose is more of a problem and essential for our garden especially the vegetable beds.
  • Clothes pegs.  Easily replaced.
  • Washing machine balls.  Hmm, they are supposed to be ecologically sound in that they help the washing with less powder so a conundrum.  Have switched to soapnuts and think they could probably do with the help.
  • Tumble drier balls.  With a family of five living in the back of beyond with 3 dogs, 5 cats, chickens, geese and a small lake we have a lot of dirty clothes.  In the winter even with the Aga and the overhead airer I need to tumble dry to keep up.  The balls are supposed to reduce the amount of drying required.  Second conundrum
  • Kitchen sink plug – simple buy a metal washing up bowl – if I can find one….
  • Fermenting bin.  This isn’t my area of expertise, can you use metal bins?
  • packaging.  A parcel came today wrapped in bubble wrap.  Normally I would keep it to reuse, it seems pointless to throw it away and I will need to wrap parcels at Christmas?
  • Packing tape.  Apparently non plastic does exist, I just have to find it.
  • Folders.  Plastic does last longer than cardboard.  Research required.
  • Meat baster.  I did have a glass one once.
  • Shower cap?  Help here please.
  • Husband has metal razor, I see no reason why I can’t.

 

|I’m exhausted already!

 

 

stop

The Singers are 15 next week.  We will be flying to Turkey on their birthday and they are none too pleased.  Not least when they discovered that the Boss has paid extra for two seats with extra leg room because he is fed up of sitting on planes with his knees roughly the same height as his chest.  They (perhaps understandably) thought that as they were flying on their birthday they should have extra leg room.  The fact that they are built like butterflies doesn’t apparently count.

I digress.  We are going on holiday and the Singers are having a birthday.  Consequently we have to go clothes shopping for apparently the rooms that make backstage at London Fashion Week look like a minimalist’s dream, do not contain “a single item of summer clothing.”  I did point out that as they have not been wandering around naked during the current heat wave there must be a few usable pieces.  I was met with the standard teenage sad face. Not the sad I am unhappy face, the sad you are a sad person who really doesn’t understand and clearly was never a teenager and has no idea what being a teenager is like and so on…..

Actually I quite enjoyed it because I didn’t have anything to buy, I just followed them around and marvelled at how they could look drop dead gorgeous in a bin bag.  Shopping for a size 6 willow is a breeze.  It’s going to look fantastic on you whatever it is.

Much planning and mental arithmetic was required.  When you are 14 (okay almost 15) you have limited funds and no access to a credit card (well not in this house anyway).  You cannot buy whatever you want and just “put it on the card”.  You are paying with cash that has been earned or given as a gift.  There were complicated deals that would frazzle the brain of the most devious hedge fund manager juggling swaps and futures.  If one had an advance on their birthday money from Grandad and the other owed me for the ebay shop and the first hadn’t made any ebay purchases but was owed £10 by Dad for the garden work did that cancel the £40 owed to me by the Dancer?  I don’t know either.

cards_2222752a

The point is they knew the value of the purchases and they knew precisely how much they could spend (and still have enough to purchase each other a birthday present).  If you pay with cash you are much more thoughtful about how you spend it.  If you pay with plastic you are not.  Granted, turning up at the travel agents to pay in cash for five return flights to LA would probably cause a minor disturbance.  There is a place for plastic.  But too many of us don’t know what that place is.

One of the reasons we have so much clutter in our lives is because we buy things on a whim, with little thought.  We get home and they may be used once or twice but we didn’t really want or need them so they go to the back of the cupboard.  They stay there either because we have forgotten they are there or because of an undercurrent of guilt that since we paid for them we should keep them.

Refusing to let them into the house in the first place is so much easier and a heck of a lot cheaper.  Shop with cash.  If you must keep your plastic in your purse for an emergency hide it.  I keep a £50 note in my purse for emergencies.  It is too big to spend without some thought and in fact I would probably have to go to a bank and get it changed into smaller notes.  It has been there unspent for over three years.  I have never actually needed it.  You don’t need to take the plastic out with you.  Leave it at home.

no

When I was a student in the eighties and used my own shopping bags, refusing the plastic bags at the check out  I got some rather odd looks.  But now it is commonplace.  It is almost looked down upon to request a plastic bag.  I have yet to get non food retailers to accept my own bags but I am working on it.  Explaining that the newly purchased dress will not self destruct if it is placed in a cotton tote rather than a plastic bag with the shop’s name emblazoned on the side is still a step too far for some shops.  But the time will come.  I am patient.

It’s all about saying no.  Today I practiced refusing things I didn’t want.  The reactions were interesting.

Case one: local co-op.  I refuse the receipt and the voucher automatically printed that gives me £5 next time I spent £50.  Not an eyelash was batted.  It occurred to me to ask if it was possible to request that no receipt and voucher were printed, but I decided one step at a time.  I’ll try that tomorrow…

Case two:  large supermarket whose doors I rarely darken.  However this was an emergency.  I refused the receipt.  The girl on the checkout looked at me and looked at the receipt and yet another voucher telling me how much I had saved by shopping there rather than elsewhere and tried to give them to me again.  Again I refused.  Blind panic set in and she clearly didn’t know what to do.  By now I had bagged up my shopping (in my own bags) and was heading out of the door.  For all I know she is still clinging onto that redundant piece of paper.

We are used to saying no to plastic bags in supermarkets.  Why not say no to:

  • plastic bags in all shops from clothes to DIY
  • receipts you don’t want
  • automatically produced vouchers especially those that tell you how much you saved
  • freebies from make up to pens.  You don’t need them and they aren’t really free.
  • paper napkins
  • plastic straws and parasols in drinks
  • Bags for veg.  Why does you single broccoli have to have its own bag?  Frankly why do 6 apples have to have their own bag?
  • dry cleaners who will not take back wire coathangers

Until we start to vocalise our objections we will keep having unwanted and unnecessary stuff foistered upon us.