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Sunday, 14 December 2014

How to go zero waste in the bathroom!

The small bin in the corner of most bathrooms can be misleading as to the level of waste created in this vital room in a home. There is actually quite a lot of stuff thrown away in the bathroom.  Bottles from products, toilet paper rolls, empty medicine packets, toothbrushes, tissues, the list goes on. The problem with this room is that often it is easy to forget all the composting and recycling efforts going on in the kitchen and just chuck everything in that small bin.

So here is an easy solution - get rid of the bin in the bathroom and replace it with a compost bin and a recycling bin!  Also try to avoid making some of that waste in the first place. Here is how to go zero waste in the bathroom:

1. Reduce
  • Swap disposables for reusables - e.g. 
    • use a body brush instead of an exfoliating cream or gel.
    • Consider swapping toilet paper for cloth wipes (or the water pistol method :) - read more here) and using cloth nappies.  
    • Swap disposable tampons and sanitary towels for a menstrual cup or reusable cloth sanitary towels. 
  • Stop buying beauty products.  If you have to use them - make your own from natural ingredients. You will save money, packaging and they will be better for you.   If you need a few ideas, check out Annie's DIY Wednesday posts on her blog Hello Purple Clouds for homemade beauty recipes!
  • Consider swapping products that come in non-recyclable packaging for ones that come in packaging that can be composted or recycled e.g. swap deodorant in a tube for bicarbonate of soda (I buy it in bulk in paper bags).
2. Compost

3. Reuse
  • Grey / waste water - put a bucket under the tap or shower while it is running and save it to flush the toilet with. If it is soap/ product free you could water the garden or plants with it.
  • Toothbrushes - great for cleaning with e.g. scrubbing tile grouting 
  • If you have kids, there are lots of toilet paper roll crafts out there - Maggie from Red Ted Art has a particular passion for them and has loads of brilliant ideas here. Gardeners can also make use of them to grow seedlings in.
  • Bottles and containers can be reused and refilled with homemade products.

4. Recycle

If it can't be composted or reused there is a good chance it can be recycled. Paper (e.g. old medicine instruction leaflets), cardboard (e.g. toothbrush packaging), plastic (e.g. shampoo bottles), glass (e.g. old perfume bottles) and WEEE waste (I'm not talking about what you do in the loo here -I'm thinking broken electric toothbrushes and razors) can all be recycled.

As you can see, going zero waste in the bathroom is really quick, simple and easy to do so why not give it a try!

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Note - I have put a few affiliate links in this blog post. If you choose to click through and buy something then thank you for supporting the blog! 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Sad news and 11 handbags

My grandma died recently. She was 90 when she died and she was an absolute inspiration to me.  She was happily married for over 60 years and lived to see three of her great grandchildren. She lived at home looking after herself almost until the end and she was a loyal friend with a couple of her friendships lasting almost as long as her marriage! I have great memories of the time I spent with her and although yes I am very sad she is no longer here, I'm happy she had such happy, healthy and long life. 

This month I have been doing the minimalism game and I have been ruthlessly going round my home and getting rid of things. After my grandma died though we went to her flat and along with the rest of my close family we ended up choosing things to keep from it. I just planned to take a few photos, but ended up coming home with a car full of stuff - not very minimal really!  

It can be really hard to look through a loved one's stuff who is no longer here and let most of it go. We were pretty good though with most of the stuff we brought home.   I tried to only take things that we actually needed or could use, not just take stuff for the sake of it and although there was some sentimental stuff, most of the stuff we took was really practical.  For example, having not bought anything for such a long time (read more here), we were very low on things like glasses, envelopes and hoover bags!

I also brought home all her handbags - 11 in total!  No-one else wanted them, I thought they were all lovely and the problem I have is that I ruin handbags. I use them day after day and wear them out. I'm hoping if I spread the load a bit around various handbags that they will last longer.  

As far as the minimalism game goes, I reached my target and surpassed it.  I'm not going to bore you with the details, but since my last update (read more here) I sold some stuff, chucked some more broken plastic toys/ bits of toys, gave some stuff away, did some more recycling and and I still have a room full of stuff to either be sold or given away.

My husband even got in on the game and started clearing out his cupboards! This was mainly inspired by Martin Lewis as he was on TV last night saying that now is a good time to have a clear out and sell stuff to get a bit of extra cash for Christmas.  At this time of year people are looking to buy gifts for people and selling now is a better idea than selling in January. Martin recommended that if you are selling stuff on an auction site, Sunday night is a good night to end the auction - except avoid the X-factor final night!.

Unbelievably I have barely scratched the surface of things I could get rid of in my home, so I'm not stopping here.  I've got the decluttering bug now and I will keep at it. I have also seen another idea for decluttering which I think is great - Streetbank are encouraging people to give a thing away a day as an advent challenge.  You can read all about it here.  

I'm really glad I took part in the minimalism game.  It focussed me and made me get rid of things that I might not have done otherwise. I was happy to see everything go and now is a great time to have a clear out as it is a good time to sell stuff and I don't feel so bad about my kids having a few new toys, having got rid of some.  It also focussed my mind when I was looking round my Grandma's flat.  Her stuff is no substitute for her and holding on to too much of it would have been more stressful than pleasurable. 

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Upcycled dish cloths!

During my decluttering sessions for the Minimalism Game (read more here) I came across some white towels that we used when the kids were babies.  I was about to donate them to charity when I decided that actually they would make really good dish cloths if I chopped them up.

Cleaning cloths/ dish cloths are worked hard in my house. I use them all the time as I rarely use kitchen roll and I never use wet wipes. I store them in what used to be a plastic bag dispenser, just behind my sink and after use I hang them to dry on a little clothes airer I have in the kitchen while I am saving them up to put in the wash (I dry them between washes as otherwise they start to get mouldy and smelly).

I have been thinking about replacing my dish cloths for months.  I was considering knitting some but that's as far as I got - the knitting needles didn't come out the cupboard :).  In the mean time lots of my dish cloths have become rags and it really is time to replace them (or at least downgrade some of them to use for the messiest jobs).  So I was quite excited about being able to make my own from something I already had at no cost to us!

Here's how I did it:
  1. I folded the towel lengthwise into 3,  I didn't measure it or anything just folded it over the best I could.  
  2. I then cut down the creases giving myself 3 lengths of towel.  
  3. Keeping the lengths of towel on top of each other I folded them in half and cut down the creases resulting in 6 pieces of towel.
  4. Keeping three layers of towel together I again folded them in half and cut down the creases, resulting in 12 squares of towel.
  5. I then repeated the process with the other towel
  6. To make sure the edges don't fray I zig zag stitched around the edges
  7. I saved the few off cuts I had in a little tub to take for fabric recycling when I next go.
That was it - very simple! I had two towels so I ended up with 24 new cleaning cloths.  Cutting out the cloths only took about 10 minutes, but sewing the edges took a bit a bit longer - around two hours. I think it was two hours and 10 minutes really well spent though.  I avoided the shops and didn't spend any money. I enjoyed doing a bit of sewing, I even got a bit creative and did a bit of freestyle sewing adding a heart to one of the cloths and I made really good use of something I already had.  

The edges aren't perfect as you can see from the pictures but it really doesn't matter and I have found using the cloths really satisfying in a way that it really wouldn't be if I had gone to a shop and bought them!

I haven't actually got rid of any of the old dish cloths yet, but I plan to have a sort through and put the ones in the worst states either in fabric recycling or if they are 100% cotton, I will chop them up and put them on the compost heap.

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Why You are in the Pocket of Big Recycling

I don't usually publish guest posts on my blog, but I found this one really interesting.  I have the mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle' (in that order) at the back of my mind, but I generally think in terms of the options available to me i.e. what I can do at home. This article got me thinking about what is going on outside of my home and how the government/ local councils seem pretty focused on recycling. 

Why You are in the Pocket of Big Recycling

Since the 1980s, recycling has been the figurehead of the environmental movement. Politicians keen to court the green vote have championed recycling as a kind of cure-all solution to ‘the environment’, but in our willingness to do the right thing ecologically, have we been taken in by ‘Big Recycling’?  

In the waste reduction hierarchy, which was first introduced by the European Union in 1975 and updated as recently as 2008, reuse is a flatly better option than recycling, and for good reason.

Over the last few years, studies by the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP) have definitively demonstrated that reusing is both more financially and environmentally prudent than recycling.

So why does recycling continue to be viewed as the best way to be eco-friendly?

The Big Business of Recycling

In an article for Forbes, Amy Westervelt outlines a number of reasons why recycling continues to dominate the environmental movement.

She shows how attitudes to recycling have been manipulated to encourage overconsumption despite having real inefficiencies.

In this way, we can see how recycling has become motivated by money while potentially causing more environmental harm than good.

Recycling Encourages Overconsumption

In her article, Amy claims recycling has: “given the manufacturers of disposable items a way to essentially market overconsumption as environmentalism.”

Fundamentally the idea has been sold to people that it is okay to consume tons of disposable items as long as they recycle them.

Recycling is Motivated by the Economy Rather than Environmental Issues

Furthermore, she explores how recycling has become a “commodity business”.

One example typifies this completely: a few years ago demand for recycled paper declined which resulted in a price drop, but as a result, recyclers warehoused a great deal of cardboard in the hope the prices would rise.

In certain instances where storage became an issue, much of this cardboard was eventually landfilled.

Not All Recyclable Items Are Recycled

Items actually being recycled depends on a number of factors: consumers must actually dispose of the items properly, a collection system must be in place, and the recycling must be deemed to be financially justified.

Westervelt focuses on PVC and bioplastic as case studies. Both of these are indeed recyclable but are not commonly recycled.  When PVC is recycled the resultant material has colour problems and is therefore not marketable. Also, polylactic acid, which is the most common bioplastic, will contaminate the recycling stream and there isn’t enough of it to financially justify recycling it separately. As a result, it is disposed of as waste.

Some Recyclable Materials Cause Harmful Emissions When Recycled

While recycling some materials undoubtedly lowers greenhouse gas emissions, there are others which emit dangerous particles during the recycling process.

In the Forbes article, Westervelt focuses on the environmentally damaging recyclers of glass, plastic and metal. In particular she cited Oakland, USA, where recyclers were named among the city’s top polluters.

Reuse as an Alternative

What is Reuse?

Reuse means passing on an item to be used again in its current form only if it is still in working order or can be restored to working order.

Manufacturing new products, even recycling old products, is a massive drain on the planet's limited resources and pollutes our environment.

Combined with this is the financial expense of disposing waste in landfills, recycling items, and making new items. Reuse is by far and away the most environmentally and economically friendly solution.

Stigma of Reuse

For many, while reuse is on the rise due to austerity, there remains a distinct stigma associated with reusing second hand items as Jane Stephenson, chief executive of Resource Future, asserts in an article in MRW Magazine.

Reuse and the Circular Economy

According to WRAP, a circular economy is: an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

Rufus Hirsch from clearance company Clearance Solutions, frequently deals with clients that need full-scale home removals. “The kind of items that we clear ranges from living room furniture to a kitchen sink” he says, “but thanks to our networks like London Community Resource Network, we can find a new home for almost anything.”

The LondonCommunity Resource Network is responsible for the London Re-use Network which collects and repairs unwanted or broken furniture, appliances and household items. The repaired items are then either sold or donated to community groups, schools and homes. 

Environmental Benefits of Reuse

In 2009, WRAP published Meeting the UK Climate Challenge: The Contribution of Resource Efficiency. This found that increasing reuse could reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by an average 4 million tonnes CO2 eq per year between 2009 and 2020.

In 2011, WRAP published Benefits of Reuse Case Study: Office Furniture which found that around 200,000 desks are reused in the UK every year. This is approximately 14% of desks that reach the end of their life cycle each year.

In this example, the practice of reusing avoided 3,600 tonnes CO2-eq that year.

Economic Benefits of Reuse

In a Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) study published in 2011, it was found that only 14% of office desks and chairs that reach the end of their life cycle in the UK each year are reused. The rest go to landfills, energy recovery and recycling plants.

A large amount of these items could be reused. If these reusable desks were, in fact, reused and not dumped or recycled, both the financial benefits to businesses and the environmental benefits would be enormous.
Financial Benefits of Reusing for Business

Businesses that reuse as much as possible will have to make fewer waste disposal trips. They will also have less need for raw materials. In the long run, small changes could help to save a substantial amount of money.

Depending on the business, money can be saved through reusing: refillable toner and ink cartridges, wasted printer paper, durable utensils, crockery and tableware (as opposed to disposable styrofoam and plastic equivalents).

Even if these options aren’t available, similar cost-effective results can be achieved with the resource saving Industrial Symbiosis plan.

In this practice, businesses can create collaborative networks where waste is moved free of charge. It works on the premise that the waste of one business is a fundamental aspect of another.

Reuse Encourages Job Creation and Opportunities

In a report from Friends of the Earth called “More jobs, less waste”, favourable statistics suggested that turning waste into a commodity can help the environment and encourage new business plans and job opportunities.

Indeed, if a 70% recycling rate were achieved by 2025 in the UK, nearly 19,000 additional jobs would be created as a result. And most of these additional jobs would be in the reuse and remanufacturing sectors.

If more businesses made strong efforts to reuse rather than recycle, we could witness the rise of a new form of industry based on the utilisation of waste resources for other purposes.

In a recent example of this kind of collaborative enterprise, the waste heat produced by a glass manufacturing plant was used to stimulate food production in a greenhouse. This agreement not only saved vast CO2 emissions, it also saved a lot of money for both companies.

The bottom line on recycling and reuse

While they’re both better options than discarding, recycling seems to have taken centre-stage over its more environmentally friendly counterpart: reusing.

The increased awareness of our responsibility for the environment has been influenced in part by councils insisting on separate collections for different kinds of waste. For example, in Thurrock recycling bags will not be collected if certain types have been mixed.

With this kind of public push that associates the idea of recycling with helping the environment, the feeling of contributing to a worthy cause can become blinding in everyday aspects of life.

Instead of promoting a focus on using sustainable materials that can be reused again and again, we’re still facing products with far too much unnecessary packaging and being encouraged to think that it’s okay because we know how to recycle the plastic.

Buying coffee in a cardboard cup that proudly announces its 100% compostable and recycled history should not be worthy of a well deserved slap on the back. Especially not when the recycling plants that make such drinking containers are actually responsible for C02 emissions that rival industrial power plants. 

Reuse doesn’t always come with the satisfaction of posting items into clearly delineated bin slots or bags because it requires a little bit more effort. But that effort can prevent resources from needlessly entering the waste stream when they could be put to good use.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored guest post

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