Firstly, a big apology for the lack of eco-challenge update recently. I’ve been so busy creating new rag rug video content, attending craft fairs and campervanning through Australia that it’s been tricky to find the time. Either way, I’m back now and here is what’s new…
Reducing Waste & Zero-Waste Shops:
In my last Eco-challenge blog post, I mentioned that my next big challenge would be all about reducing waste by choosing packaging-free options where possible. This was sparked by the realisation that Christian (my boyfriend) and I were taking out the recycling at least once a week, and it’s always better to cut out waste by not producing it in the first place!
This was one of my favourite “challenges”, as it wasn’t really all that much of a challenge. We came up with a few rules for shopping:
- Any time we went to the supermarket or market, if there was a packaging-free option, we’d choose that. In particular these are the items we found easier to buy loose: citrus fruit, apples, onions, garlic, mushrooms, avocado, aubergine, courgette etc…
- We didn’t buy any single-use carrier bags throughout the month, even if it meant stuffing yoghurt pots into our pockets. We’re lucky enough to live pretty much on top of a large supermarket, so this was manageable, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for longer distances as we did look pretty foolish 🙂
- We took our reusable bottles (and coffee cup in Christian’s case) everywhere we could to cut out single-use water bottles and coffee cups.
These were our learnings / musings:
- Picking individual fruit and veg made us connect more with what we were eating. When you look at the individual characteristics of a piece of fruit, it somehow makes you appreciate it more. It also meant we could select exactly which ones we wanted.
- The packaging-free fruit and vegetable options aren’t always the cheapest option (weirdly), so this option may not be viable for everyone unfortunately.
- Plastic plays a crucial role in keeping food fresh for longer, ultimately reducing food waste, so we shouldn’t completely demonise it.
- Certain fruit and veg gets pretty bashed up when you leave it loose in your shopping basket. Mushrooms in particular looked like they’d gone through the war by the time I made it to the check out! Be careful with your mushrooms or soft fruits 🙂
- Most supermarkets are trying to reduce packaging, but it’s a mammoth task that will take a while. If more of us actively choose packaging-free options, I feel like we’re lending them our support and showing that there’s real demand. Viva la revolución!
In my last Eco-challenge blog post, I also mentioned that I wanted to explore some of my local zero-waste shops. Although I never actually made it to any of the London ones (they’re still on my to do list), I did make it over to Bamboo Turtle in Letchworth, Hertfordshire and Naked Foods in Sydney, Australia (while I was on holiday).
Bamboo Turtle in Letchworth Garden City has now been open for just over a year and when I popped in recently I was told that it has been a great first year. The shop, located in The Arcade, is a beautiful space full of products helping us to help the planet and shop more mindfully. You bring along your own containers (think empty, washed jars and bottles) to fill, but the shop also stocks spares that you can use. Everything you buy in the shop is sold by weight which takes some getting used to, but the staff there are so friendly and will help if you get confused. The shop even provides a click and collect service. I was so impressed by the range of products stocked here; downstairs is dedicated to food products, whilst upstairs you can find household items as well as shampoos, shower gels and other beauty products.
Upstairs they have personal care products, but downstairs is mostly food…
You weigh your container on the scales before you fill it up, then you weigh it again afterwards. It’s simple really. I loved all the pretty jars.
I particularly liked the attention to detail with their product selection – everything is lovely quality and beautifully displayed.
I even bought another set of face wipes to see if these were any different than the others I’d tried previously…
For all you Hertfordshire-based ladies, it’s also worth noting that a zero-waste shop is now open in Hitchin too.
Naked Foods in Newtown, Sydney was on a slightly different scale…
My friend Kate meandering through the aisles of tasty food at Naked Foods in Newtown, Sydney.
I particularly liked how the jars had been individually labelled in beautiful handwriting.
I was particularly tempted by the amazing nut selection.
They had a slightly more exotic range of products in Naked Foods. Any idea what all this clay is for anyone?
In Naked Foods, you had the option of using paper bags, which can be recycled.
So that was just a couple of the zero-waste shops I visited. If anyone knows of any great zero-waste shops near them, please comment below. We want to start a revolution 🙂
Shampoo and Conditioner Bars:
In a bid to reduce my packaging waste, back in March I swapped out conventional bottles of shampoo and conditioner for shampoo and conditioner bars. I chose a shampoo bar from Bathing Beauties (as a friend had recommended it to me) and a conditioner bar from Lush. I trialled them for a month and below are my thoughts…
I wouldn’t consider myself a high maintenance person. In fact, I rarely even blow dry my hair, preferring to let it dry naturally. However, as someone who normally buys particularly nice shampoo and conditioner, switching to bars was somewhat of a challenge for me. Before starting my new routine, I fretted that they wouldn’t work properly and that my hair would look a mess.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Although it’s hard to quantify whether the they worked as “well” as conventional shampoo and conditioner you get in a bottle, my hair always seemed clean, or at least “non-greasy” afterwards. Both bars lathered up well and had a nice scent to them. I’m still not convinced that the conditioner bar was quite as moisturising as a normal conditioner, but that may just be down to choosing the right bar for my particular hair, which is the case for bottled conditioner as well.
Here are a few more musings:
- The bars were a little difficult to keep in the shower without them getting gungey, which became unappealing after a while. After a couple of weeks of storing them on a ledge in the shower, I started storing them in a pot outside of the shower. This meant I had to remember to take them into the shower with me.
- They didn’t seem to last as long as a bottle of shampoo and conditioner, but this may be because half of mine was dissolving away on the shelf in the shower and I hadn’t got my technique down.
- The conditioner bar sometimes left my hair a little dryer than it would be normally, but as I mentioned above, this may be due to the particular bar I chose not being best suited to my hair.
- I didn’t use my shampoo bars and conditioner while I was in Australia as I was sharing with my friend, Kate, but I suspect they would be lighter and less bulky to travel with, which is a bonus. You’d need to buy a container for the bars though.
So, in conclusion, I plan to keep using my shampoo bar and conditioner for everyday washing, but I’m still not ready to entirely ween myself off conventional bottle shampoo and conditioner (lots of weddings this year!) Oh well, even if I use 50% less shampoo and conditioner from bottles, I’ll be doing my bit and that’s what this eco-challenge is all about 🙂
It was hard to switch about too much in April as there was a lot going on what with me going on holiday for two weeks, but I did take along a new bamboo toothbrush to Australia with me.
The main draw of bamboo toothbrushes is that they can be completely composted once their lifetime is up, which means they’re not clogging up landfill. I mean a toothbrush is very much a toothbrush to me, but I chose a set of four georganics natural bamboo toothbrushes because they’re biodegradable and are made from 100% renewable resources with BPA-free bristles. I’m still using mine, but I found this handy guide online on how to go about disposing of bamboo toothbrushes, which I’m sure will come in handy further down the line.
Below are some of my observations:
- The bristles did get pretty uneven over time, more so than with a normal plastic toothbrush, but that didn’t really bother me all that much, and if it had, I’d have just trimmed the ones that were out of place.
- Some people don’t like the feel of wooden products on their teeth – if you’re one of those people then bamboo toothbrushes probably aren’t for you. Christian is one of those people unfortunately.
- In my opinion, they look so much cuter than a conventional plastic toothbrush 🙂
SO WHAT’S IN STORE FOR MAY?
May Household Substitute:
In May, I am replacing plastic sponges with natural ones made from cotton and hessian from HandmadeByLDavies on Etsy. These unsponges not only look pretty, but are plastic-free and biodegradable.
At checkout, you’re not able to choose the pattern that comes through to you, but I was pleased with the design I got…
The pack came with two “unsponges”, one with a hessian back for scrubbing, and one with a terry cloth back. I’m intrigued to see how they stand up to lots of washing up and whether they dry as well as conventional plastic sponges. I’ll also let you know what happens when they go through the washing machine!
If these unsponges are a success then I will make them myself going forward (although possibly not as neatly!) Watch this space…
As well as my household substitute, my eco-challenge for May is to go meat-free during the week. I’m quite partial to a good steak from time to time, but apparently livestock farming produces from 20% to 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, so even reducing your meat intake by one day a week can have a real impact over time. I’m looking forward to discovering some interesting new veggie dishes.
Right, that’s my latest update. Hope you found it interesting and inspiring. Subscribe to the Ragged Life Newsletter to be the first to know how I get on with my May challenges or stay tuned on our social media channels below 🙂
As always, thanks for reading.