I could do more. Fact. I am not the finished product. I grew up learning about our rainforests being cut down and more recently I've learnt about our plastic problem and how it's polluting our oceans. Even though I know, significant change comes from governments and industry, I also know the power of our pennies. As a collective we have power, we influence the economy all the time by how we chose to spend our money and I wanted to do what I can, even if that was only a little.
But this isn't a blog post about the history and politics of our environment, it's a personal story. So here's what I have done. I approached the whole journey as lots of little experiments. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the desire to do everything and be wonderful and I didn't want that to happen to me, so I started small. My 'going green' 'ecoliving' journey started properly in 2010 when I was going deep into my minimalism journey. Living with less had made me question everything I owned and everything I bought.
Clothes Fast fashion, I learnt that phrase round about 2010, it didn't apply to me, I'd never been a great shopper. I typically wear my clothes until they get a hole in them. I only buy clothes when I need them or I'm desperately in love with an item. My summer and winter wardrobe have been the same for almost 2 decades, with only a few new items every year or so. I do appreciate this is somewhat luck because I've been the same size since I was 14, but it's also been a conscious choice to choose things I know I will wear. One of my favourite bloggers created Project 333, which is now a book and a course and a ted talk. It will help you shift your mindset about your wardrobe, I highly recommend it. The link I've provided goes to all her blogs about project 333.
Bathroom Our bathrooms are full of plastics. Shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, shaving gels, deodorants, razors, moisturisers, face wash, toners, cleansers, face wipes, hair moose, hair sprays, lotions, creams, potions sooooo many things. I didn't have as many products as most people because of my eczema, but I still had some. I experimented with different products that were totally plastic free like shampoo bars but they aggravated my eczema.
Products I use:
The Dead Sea Spa Magik Mineral Shampoo (which is so gentle, I don't actually need a conditioner)
Crystal Deodorant (which is amazing for me!)
Moisturisers - Cerave and La Roche Posay Baby (which I use on my face & hands) and Glossair Hydralunic acid (each of these products last a year, you can't refill them so there is plastic waste there)
Eczema cream - Gladskin Eczema
Toothpaste - Weleda Calendula (because I'm allergic to fluoride)
Toothbrushes - electric (because the dentist said without fluoride I needed a really good clean, so I also bought a waterfloss which I use every time I shower and on normal days I just use/reuse the indenture brushes until they fall apart)
Exfoliating gloves & face cloths - Oli and I have our own exfoliating gloves which get washed on high with the sheets weekly/biweekly and the face cloths get washed after each use.
I do have a very minimal makeup bag and a liquid make up remover, I bought them for our wedding but I use make up so rarely that they last for years... I always wash my brushes after use because I know I'm not going to use them again for months.
Bathing You may have noticed in the products listed above that there's no soap. We do have a hand soap from Neals Yard in a glass container for Oli and our guests. So no shower gel? Yup no shower gel and no soap. Oli and I don't actually bathe like most people (because of my skin). After the third dermatologist told me to stop using soap, I stopped. What I thought would happen is ... I would be smelly. That's what we're taught... that those soap suds, the gorgeous smelling bubbles will make you smell nice. But it's all a marketing lie. The bubbles are JUST a foaming agent. It's actually the act of rubbing that cleans the skin. If you don't trust me or three NHS dermatologists, have a little google. So what do I do? Because I clearly bathe! I use a facecloth (for my delicate areas) and exfoliating gloves to scrub the rest of my skin, and I just use water. Don't worry if this blows your mind, it took me hearing it from three dermatologists before I was willing to test out the theory. Which if anything just shows you how closed minded I am... because it means I didn't trust the first two professionals (face palm). Luckily this method works so well that I can shower every 4-5 days and I'm still not smelly. I shower when I need to wash my hair, but I body wash every day with a facecloth (face, underarms and private parts). Okay I feel like I've just shared too much.
Feminine Hygiene Back in 2010 I tried the moon cup and it was a revelation for me. My cramps decreased so significantly that I rarely needed a hot water bottle or tablets for more than 1 day a month. Let's be clear, before 2010, I used tampons, pantyliners and towels. There were no fancy eco versions at that time and I loathed having those days where I wore my 'horrible' knickers because the panty liners and towels ruined them with their glue. If there was anything about my monthly cycle that I loathed it was that and the number of times you had to change them etc. The moon cup changed my life. I gave all my towels and tampons and panty liners away to female friends. I bought 5 other moon cups and gifted them to women I thought might give it go. The practicalities, I typically like to shower every morning or night on my period (hair in a shower cap) so I would typically change my moon cup in the shower, otherwise I rinse it out in the sink. I know some women just wipe it clean with some toilet paper. At the end of every cycle you wash it and put it away in it's little bag. Details come with the product.
More recently in 2020, I bought a Nixit cup which suits me even better (we are all an ever-so-slightly different shape down there) and you can have leak free sex with the Nixit cup in, if you so choose). I already knew the Nixit cup would suit me because I'd used the Instead Soft Cup for years when the 'mood' had taken me. Side note incase you're a particularly young reader... always use a condom (it is possible to fall pregnant even on your period and condoms protect you from STI's!). The benefit of the Nixit cup is, I prefer the feel of it and I no longer have to buy the plastic Instead soft cups. Also, imagine how much plastic I've avoided putting out into the planet and how much money I've saved in the last decade. If you're interested in learning more, check out 'the pink tax'.
Shaving So... I don't actually shave at all anymore. No, I'm not hairy but that's cool if you choose to. I found a local therapist and had light laser hair removal done on my underarms first to test out how well my body worked with it. Then I had my bikini line and legs done and later I even had my arms done. I'm very pale skinned and it doesn't work on blonde hairs so I do have some soft fluffy blonde hairs but I don't shave them because you've got to be up close and personal to even see them and they're soft so I don't mind. It's an expensive option, in one sense. But I added up how much money I'd spent getting waxed and within 3 years, I'd have started to save money on avoiding getting waxed. My desire to never have to get waxed or shave ever again was because I loved the idea of a low maintenance lifestyle. I was envious of the ease men had in their personal hygiene routine but I had very thick dark hair and very pale skin and it wasn't a look I wanted plus... it wasn't a texture I liked to feel. I have eczema which I'm sure I've mentioned and I adore the feeling of soft skin, probably because I associate the feeling with being eczema free.
I do however live with my husband who is a very hairy man, lol, and he has to shave for work. He uses an electric shaver most days and occasionally uses a disposable razor, so one of the things I'm looking into atm is buying him a forever razor, with replaceable blades. There are a few companies around that do them and if you do shave, it's worthwhile looking into it.
The more I learnt about plastics, the less I wanted to get my nails done. I'd only ever really liked a natural looking french manicure anyway but when I learnt that having nail polish on means that you're body is absorbing more plastics... I went completely off the idea. Complete transparency, I do have 2 nail polishes in the attic if I have the desire, but I'd say I've only had my nails done three in the last 5 years, once for our wedding. I have metal clippers and scissors and a metal nail file.
I wouldn't have even thought about toilet paper if I hadn't come across a few youtubers who use a handheld bidet and cloth to dry themselves with afterwards. When you buy toilet paper, it comes in plastic, it's also not very good for the world in many ways. So I'm currently looking at setting up a new subscription service, I'm swaying towards Greencane but I haven't fully decided.
Kitchen Back in 2010 when I really started questioning the items in my home, I removed kitchen roll and clingfilm, they were two items that were just so wasteful and unneeded. On my minimalist journey, I'd come across some blogs that focus on frugal living which I realised in many ways was very ecological. So those items disappeared from my kitchen and never returned. What do we use instead? Cloths. Yup it's that simple. We've got a number of cloths under the sink and when we clean up, we just use a cloth and rinse it out. Clingfilm, I never missed because I just put the food in a BPA free tupperware box. Or in a bowl with a plate on top. I know that we shouldn't really have tupperware anymore, but I've decided that I'll use them until they break, then I'll replace them with a glass jar or something similar. For me, part of living more consciously is using what we've got and not throwing things out.
Cleaning Products More recently, in fact a decade after I removed kitchen roll, I've been investigating plastic free cleaning products. Over the years I've tried lots of the very low chemical cleaners and I still have a big tub of Bicarbonate of Soda which I use to clean our white sink and my Nixit cup. I've started using Iron and Velvet plastic free sachets and glass bottles. You add the sachet to luke warm water and shake vigorously then use. They can be put on a subscription service and arrive through your letterbox. So easy. I'm just in the process of figuring out how quickly we go through it. So far it seems the kitchen cleaner is the thing we'll go through quickest. We have a kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner and glass cleaner. I spent some time researching how to differentiate the bottles, I was going to buy some kind of pen that wrote on glass then I remembered I had some yarn so, kitchen is pink, bathroom is blue and glass is grey yarn tied around the tops, such a simple solution.
Side point incase anyone else has eczema, I have rubber gloves that I have to wear before touching any cleaning agent and I have found that wearing cotton gloves inside the rubber gloves, stops my hands getting irritated even more. I bought my cotton gloves from boots in a small cardboard box but you can buy them online too.
Laundry and Dishwasher I use Surcare for my laundry because it works perfectly for my eczema, so I'm reluctant to try anything else, but it comes in a cardboard box, so it's easily recycled. Dishwasher tablets though, come in a cardboard box but are individually wrapped in plastic so I'm trying out SMOL dishwasher tablets, once again it's a simple subscribe and they get posted through your letterbox so you don't run out.
We do some dishwashing by hand too and I'm planning to wait until the fairy liquid runs out and then pop to the market on a Friday when there's a stall that is a 'refill station' for lots of things. Also I'm looking at replacing our brush, we could just use one of our cloths, but I've found a coconut brush with replaceable heads that might suit better. I'll try with just the cloths to start with though and see how I go.
Miscellaneous Items There are always those items that don't easily fall into any category, tissues are one of those things. I used to buy tissues every week before 2010 and have some in almost every room, then when I got rid of the kitchen towel in the kitchen, I got rid of tissues and switched to handkerchiefs. By far one of the best decisions I made so far on my journey and even Oli bought some man sized ones earlier this year. They're easy to use, soft on your face and easy to clean and because Oli and I have seasonal allergies, they're almost constantly useful! I have recently come across a product called a Hankybook, which seems very sensible for being out and about.
When Oli and I moved in together, we made an effort to upcycle as many items as we could, while maintaining the aesthetic we wanted. We had enough money to buy everything new, we just tried to be conscious to reuse what we could and purchase the rest. We also customised our space entirely, building a fitted windowseat and accompanying sofa.
When my sister Laura was in Japan she bought us all gifts and they all came wrapped beautifully in a furoshiki, which if you've never heard of, google immediately. They're amazing. It's basically fabric wrapping but the Japanese methods make the gift look so much more beautiful than wrapping paper or a bag ever could. And so started my obsession with fabric wraps. I started by buying from a Japanese website, it was expensive but I got a few extremely beautiful ones. Then I started scouring the charity shops for summer scarves, folded correctly they make perfect larger wraps. Previously I had stopped buying birthday and xmas wrapping paper and just started using brown paper and we always reused birthday and Xmas bags. But I fell in love with the beauty of the furoshiki and whilst I don't have any birthday or christmas themed ones, the ones I do have are beautiful. Everyone wants to keep the furoshiki their gifts come in, but the tradition is that you gift back the furoshiki much like you would discard the wrapping paper here. But I'm sure some people would love to gift a furoshiki too and if that's you great. I won't be. I'm curating a collection of beautiful wraps so when I give a gift I can use my favourite wraps too.
We're by no means done on our journey and I've probably forgotten something, but I just figured, it's worth sharing because I know lots of people are thinking about what they could do to 'go more green' and go plastic free.