Sun Block Homemade

The following information is for guidance only. None of the following recipes or tips have not been tested on anyone other than me. I strongly advise you do your own research and proceed very carefully. Sunburn is painful, ages the skin and potentially very dangerous.

Be aware of the risks of listening to someone who
a) doesn’t have any training in this field,
b) most of what they know comes from Google,
That’s me I mean.

If you want a better informed opinion I suggest you head on over to the Aromantics website. They will sell you everything you need to make sun tan lotion including recipes you can download as a PDF. They have been in this game for years and are far more qualified then I am.
The following is an account of my own experiences which may help you in your own research.


There is lots more information about sun protection here. Do read up before you decide to make your own.

A Tannning History

Fist you need to know I have no melanin at all. Which makes me well skilled in the art of tanning without burning and even more so in the art of hiding from the sun. But this knowledge was not easily won.

Growing up as I did I in the 70s in the north of England sun tan lotion was something of a mystery. If it was mentioned at all it was as an expensive and rather pointless luxury talked about in the more expensive women’s magazines. My Granddad was a window cleaner, a man out in all weathers, and he never used anything more than a flat cap for protection from the elements. Even my mother who had been to Spain and had a French pen friend scoffed at such nonsense. Vegetable oil she claimed was all any one needed for tanning. On the few occasions we did see the sun we would lie like chips frizzeling in the heat – till the oil ran out. This usually happened within the first few days as we never had much of anything in our pantry. My mothers housekeeping skills were not of the best.   But even in the short time it was available, I soon came to realise that oil offered  absolutely no protection from the sun.

Having run out of oil mother now claimed that even that was unnecessary. Her latest theory was that you had to burn blistering hard once. Then, when you finally emerged from your darkened room having painfully sloughed the destroyed outer layer skin, you would be immune to the destructive power of the sun. For ever after at the first hint of summer, you would tan a beautiful golden brown. Needless to say this didn’t work either. I burnt and shed but never actually tanned. Lucky we lived in Manchester where Summer, at least one with sunshine, was a rare beast and I only had to suffer this infrequently. But I have come to realise that even if you do build up an immunity to the sun you can still burn – Even people with tans.

I was 15 before I saw real sun. We went to France and a tube of sun tan lotion was bought to celebrate. However it was so expensive that it was severely rationed and we all ended up blistered and peeling and my faith in suntan lotion rather compromised. Most people it seems do not apply enough lotion. You need to be liberal which can be difficult if you are on a budget. And sun tan lotion used to be very expensive and though there are more budget options now, cost can be a consideration.

So I went over to the pale and interesting school. Which involved a lot of covering up. Again fairly easy in Manchester where we hardly ever disrobe.

But then I started backpacking. Maintaining a pallid complexion is hard work when you spend a lot of time outside, snorkelling or mountaineering. I minimise the risk with sensible hats and long sleeve shirts but beaches demand less clothes and swimming of course is always more dangerous with the risk of forgetting the time. Somehow because I am cool in the water I think I am safe to stay out just a little bit longer. And even a short walk up that blazing beach can leave me red and painful. But also and this seems
Really unfair, even cloudy days can lead to burning.

I realised that I needed sun tan / block lotion and lots of it. And it needs to be applied regularly. Even in cloudy weather. I came to this conclusion just as I was giving up plastic. So not only did I have to learn to use sunblock and had to learn how to make it. I have been using zinc based, home-made sun block lotion for about 5 years now. I know it stops me from burning because I burn when I don’t use it. Obviously it has not been tested in a lab and I cannot guarantee results. I still try to limit my exposure to the sun but I feel this cream definitely helps me. I offer this personal account for discussion only. If you do decide to make your own lotion please do more research.

Why Sunscreen
Sunscreens help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin.
There are two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB
UVB is the chief cause of sunburn and linked to sun cancer. UVA rays, penetrate the skin more deeply, and contribute to photoaging.
You need a cream that protects from both.

Sun protective factor provided by cream is measured in SPF
SPF factors only measure protection against UVB. You will need a cream that also protect from other kinds of rays.

SPF4 filters out 75% of UVB
SPF10 filters out 90% –
SPF15 filters out 93%
SPF25 filters out 96%
SPF30 filters out 97%
SPF50 filters out 98%
SPF100 99%

Zinc Oxide
I have settled on zinc oxide as the active ingredient in my sun block.
This is a fine white powder easily available on line.
It coats the skins and so reflects the damaging and burning rays of the sun.
It protects the skin from UVA, UVB and UVC. According to website (where you can buy zinc and get advice on how to use it), It is one the oldest and most effective sunblock and
It can be easily added to base lotions and oils.

No to Nano Zinc

So zinc is great BUT it is a white powder and stronger mixes can sit on the skin like a pasty mask. Make your lotion too strong and you look like Marcel Marceau. You don’t burn but you look freaky. To counter this some suggest using nano zinc.
Nano or micronized zinc oxide is zinc oxide that  has been ground to a very fine powder to reduce the size of its particles. Anything with a particle size smaller than 100nm is considered a nano particle. This means it spreads more easily and does not leave a white sheen on the skin.The worry is that particles this size may be able to enter the body.
Because of that I use normal zinc. In stronger concentrations it does leave a slight white sheen. It can also leave white marks on dark clothes. Wear white linen is the obvious answer to this. Or work on your locked in a glass box mime.

Using Zinc In Homemade Sun Block

There are claims that certain oils like coconut oil have a natural SPF. This may well be true but I strongly advise not to rely on this.
None of the below have been tested in lab and you have no accurate way of knowing  what SPF your lotion has. Proceed sensibly!
If in doubt Make your lotion stronger then dilute as you tan.
Too much zinc and you end up with white clown makeup. In this case you may have been overcautious.

You can add zinc to
home made creams and lotions (if you want to make a lotion there are some recipes here)
ready bought lotions
a base oil such as coconut oil.

20% zinc oxide  will give an approximate SPF of 30. That is by weight. So you weigh your base say 100g of cream then you add 20% or 1/5th of zinc. Which is 20g of zinc.You can see from the ratios below that SPF 15 is not half of SPF 30 so you cannot use that scale to work out your SPF factors.
For SPF 2-5: Use 5% zinc oxide
For SPF 6-11: Use 10% zinc oxide
For SPF 12-19: Use 15% zinc oxide
For SPF >20: Use 20% zinc oxide

These ratios were taken from DIY Natural. They have not been tested in a lab proceed with caution


Masking Creams
Thicker cream
Very strong and thick. To be used on vulnerable areas that burn easily.

First I make my own rather thick cream and then add the zinc at 20% ratio. This makes a super thick cream which is difficult to rub on large areas but great for masking specified areas. I use it to protect my great big nose and around my eyes.
For general application it is too tough and sticky.
Find out how to make cream here

Oily Cream
You can thin the above thick cream down by adding oil. N.B. You cant use water for this. Add water and your cream starts to separate when you try to rub it on.
Oily cream goes on way more easily but obviously the more you dilute is lower the SPF factor.
The advantage of this cream is that it is thicker than oil so easier to apply – less dribbling.
It does not separate.

Sun Block Oils
Oil – I have used both coconut and rice bran oil

More recently I have cut out the middle man or rather the cream and started adding zinc directly to oil. It would seem that my mother was half right!
Which Oil?
I guess you could do this with any oil but I prefer a lighter oil less gloopy than say olive oil.
I have usually used coconut oil as a base because it is light and easily obtained in glass jars. Some claim that coconut oils has an ability to deflect burning rays but the claims made for coconut oil are prodigious. Do not rely on coconut oil alone.
The problem with coconut oil in the UK at least, it solidifies below a certain temperature. This sun tan lotion needs to be liquid and well shaken before use because the ingredients separate. So if you use coconut oil, warm and shake it before applying.
More recently I used rice bran oil which is much cheaper and easily available. At least that is the case in Thailand. It is a light oil and does not solidify.
The ingredients separate so the lotion must be well shaken before use. If you are using an oil that solidifies like coconut you need to be sure it is liquid and well mixed before use.

Advantages Of Oil
Oily creams and oils are great for the beach because I feel they don’t wash off so easily in the sea as home made lotions do. And the oil itself seems to act as an added protection against the general drying effect of salt water and heat. My skin doesn’t feel as itchy. But then I am only using two ingredients no fragrances, no preservatives.
They give your skin a rather nice sheen.
And it is As Cheap As Chips
Adding zinc to rice bran oil is super cheap which means you can liberally apply this lotion. Very good if you are on a budget. Plus I get to use the oil for other things.
The disadvantages? – well it is rather… oily…

Non OIly Sun Block
This is a work in progress

But oily sun block is, well, oily. Anywhere near the hairline and it has the disastrous effect of making my locks all greasy. Not a problem on the beach where my hair is normally wet and again the coconut oil help protect it from going madly dry. But in town not such a good look.
Until now I have been adding zinc to a very thin, homemade lotion. It makes the lotion much thicker and I find it rather heavy to wear.

Since the oil zinc success I have tried adding zinc to neat vegetable glycerine. It seems to work fine but this is a work in progress.
The resulting lotion feels a bit sticky when you are applying it but that soon wears off.
It is much lighter than zinc creams.
The ingredients tend to separate so it needs shaking.
It is very very easy to make.

Store Bought Creams
Apparently you can add zinc to a store bought cream to make a suntan lotion. I have never tried this as I gave up shop bought years ago. But considering the success off adding it to oil I can see no reason why this wouldn’t work. Do remember that zinc makes your lotion thicker and much whiter. It might be a good idea to use a thin lotion as a base.
Apparently it helps if you warm them first.
Let me know how you get on!

Applying Cream
Sunscreens are unlikely to be fully effective after 2 hours
According to the skin cancer organisation  “you need to apply 1 oz – about a shot glass full. Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than advertised. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every two hours. Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.


There is lots more information about sun protection here. Do read up before you decide to make your own.

Travelling Plastic Free For Months
This discovery massively reduces your plastic when travelling. I carry all my own home made plastic free toiletries with me to avoid creating plastic waste which can present something of a problem. A years supply of sunblock is a lot to carry. So now I compromise. I take my own zinc and buy coconut oil (or rice bran oil) while travelling. I mix the zinc into the coconut oil to make a sun tan lotion great for the beach.

Microfine Titanium Dioxide

This is another product you can use to make your own sun block.

“Microfine Titanium Dioxide is accepted as a safe Sun Barrier all around the world. This is because it is inorganic and has a record of having no adverse reactions to it. This makes it ideal for products used on a daily basis.
It can be used in Sun Screens, Moisturisers, Powdered Make-up, Lip and Baby products and virtually any Skin Treatment product.
Adding 5% Microfine Titanium Dioxide to a product gives it a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of approximately 10 and protects against 90% UVA/UVB and UVC radiation. Adding 10% gives it a SPF of 15-20.
Add during the heating of the Vegetable Oil in the Fat Stage of making your product.”
The following information is from the website.

< span style=”color: #ff0000;”>Fragrance
Many recipes on line suggest adding essentials oils. In my opinion there is no real benefit to be derived from this as
they may make your skin more sensitive to light;
essential oils are resource hungry, have a large environmental footprint and should only be used on special occasions.
You can read more here


You can buy zinc on line.
It will come in a plastic bag- booo.
The best you can do is ensure the bags are polythene and so can be more easily recycled.
As I get huge amounts cream out of one small bag of ingredients, I consider it a worthwhile compromise.


2017 Calendar & Events

As well as boycotting plastic in your daily life there are an increasing number of campaigns you can support. In this post you will find:
Featured campaign the latest project:
Annual events – dates for your diary:
Petitions you can sign right now.

Featured Campaign

But first…. Let me take a selfie… Organised by

A Plastic Planet campaign are collecting thousands of films of ordinary people demanding  a Plastic Free Aisle in supermarkets. Why?  They want to mee t with the CEO of a top supermarket and need to prove consumer demand.

Sounds like a good idea? Wouldn’t it be great to buy plastic free food using your own cotton produce bags?  Then here’s what you do….

Video yourself on your phone saying: “My name is [First Name]. I am a Plastic Addict but I am ready for change. I want a Plastic Free Aisle.”
Send the recording to:

Cut and paste the below message and put it on your Facebook timeline along with your video nominating three friends who you think care about our planet and our health to do the same.
“Hi everyone.

I’m backing A Plastic Planet’s campaign to get a #PlasticFreeAisle in supermarkets. Plastic is killing our planet and will affect our health but at the moment there is nothing I can do on my own to stop plastic use. Supermarkets respond to consumer demand. As a consumer I am asking for a plastic free aisle where I can shop guilt and worry-free.

A Plastic Planet are collecting thousands of films of ordinary people demanding change, which they are bringing to the CEOs of the biggest supermarkets to demand a Plastic Free Aisle.

I nominate X, X and X:

My name is [First Name]. I am a Plastic Addict but I am ready for change. I want a Plastic Free Aisle.”

Post your film to:
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with our campaign!


There are some places in the U.k. That already do this. You can find them here.

Loose Food A to Z

Find out if a shop near you sells bulk food loose. This is stuff that that normally comes plastic packaged ie rice, pasta and salt. And yes these shops do exist in the U.K. There’s just not many of them.

Heres a list of towns with shops selling loose

Dates For Your Diary

These annual events are recurring.
Big Spring Beach Clean this April (3rd – 9th April) organised by Surfers Against Sewage

Plastic Free July is a world wide event.
Every year, in July, people everywhere try to cut their consumption of one use plastic, for this one month.
Read more here

Zero Week Week runs the first full week in September.The aim is to cut the trash going to landfill.
Read more here

The Marine Conservation Society (MSCUK) organises The Great British Beach Clean Up


Go straight to the petition…

Bottle Deposit Return Petition
Placing a small deposit on plastic bottles and cans would dramatically increase recycling and reduce marine plastic pollution. Surfers Against Sewage’s Message In A Bottle campaign site. 

Introduce a 5p charge on plastic straws to reduce the UK’s plastic waste, for both the environment and the economy. Sign Here.

Boycott plastic straws completely or use a reusable/ compostable alternative.  

As the leading tampon brand around the globe we are reaching out to you to stop a very serious environmental hazard: plastic tampon applicators. Sign here

Find out more about menstruating plastic free, here.


Cut Food Packaging
Please sign the petition to ask the major retailers (and our lovely local farm shop) to end plastic packaging on foods!

Find a whole loads of plastic free foods here – and how to cook them!

More on the above

Read more about the potions here….

Bottle Deposit Return Petition

Surfers Against Sewage have just put out a petition which I think we all should sign….
Stop marine plastic pollution by introducing a small, refundable deposit on all plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans to recycle the 16 million plastic bottles thrown away every day.
Why is this important?
In the UK we use a staggering 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles and a further 58 million cans every day! Only half of these are recycled, so it’s no surprise that many of these end up on our beaches and in our oceans.
Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down, killing marine life, harming the coastal ecosystem and ruining our beaches.Placing a small deposit on plastic bottles and cans would dramatically increase recycling and reduce marine plastic pollution.
For full information on deposit return systems please visit Surfers Against Sewage’s Message In A Bottle campaign site. 

Update on the SAS petition
Today Coca-Cola have performed a dramatic and unexpected U-turn, publicly coming out in support of deposit return systems for the UK!  This is fantastic news for the campaign!
Adding to this great news, earlier this week, the CEO of Suez, one of the UK’s largest waste collection and recycling companies also added his support, going on record on how deposit return systems can benefit communities, the economy and the environment!
Click here for more news on these stories.
It feels like the tide has really turned and we’ll be handing in the petition to Government in the coming weeks.
Thank you for signing the petition Bring back bottle deposits to stop plastic pollution in our oceans, can you help spread the word by forwarding the link below to your friends?


As the leading tampon brand around the globe we are reaching out to you to stop a very serious environmental hazard: plastic tampon applicators.
An alarming number of tampon applicators are washing up on shores all over the world, some beaches even have to be closed after large numbers of them flood the beach after a storm. In the past two months of cleaning up beaches JUST along Lake Ontario in Canada, my team and I have picked up 415 plastic applicators. We are aware that these applicators are not meant to be flushed, but it’s evident that many users are not following this advice and we would like to stop this problem at the source. Sign here

Plastic Free Food

Opting for food without plastic packaging could be a huge relief for our limited resources, however until the supermarkets change their packaging this is going to be difficult for consumers who frequently go for convenience in our ‘one stop shop’ age.
We need to act now before this problem gets worse – it’s not one to hand onto the next generation.
Please sign the petition to ask the major retailers (and our lovely local farm shop) to end plastic packaging on foods!



More Milk

Buying milk straight from the farm is one way to make sure crisis-hit dairy producers get a fair deal.
Farmers Weekly has created a map of British farmers selling direct to the public – cutting out the supermarket or middleman.
Some produce pasteurised milk, others sell raw or unpasteurised and a few have a wider dairy range to try.

See the map here

We are always happy to work with others promoting plasticfree products. Every so often we run a give away for fabulous #plasticfree prizes.
This month you are super lucky. WE have two!
Snact Fruit Jerky in compostable packaging.We have 3 sets of 3 packs of Snact to giveaway. Yup thats 3 packets of fruity goodness in sustainable packaging coming through your letter box for 3 lucky winners.
The onward packaging will also be compostable except maybe for some tape. And no Sellotape is not compostable.

WUKA period underwear cutting the need for disposables. Just for the Plastic Is Rubbish members, two prototype WUKA period underwear this month, which mean you will be the first one to try it.

You can enter here…

Zerowaste Week

Zerowaste week starts on the 4th of this month.
For a number of years now I have been a zero waste ambassador. Here are some quick zero waste week facts!
Zero waste week is organized by Rae Strauss:
It has been going since 2008:
The aim is to cut the trash going to landfill.

This year each day will focus on a different topic.
They are:
#MakeItMendItMonday – Make Do and Mend – get fixing. See how to make stuff plastic free HERE

#TrashlessTuesday – try and have a complete ZERO WASTE day with bonus points for carrying their waste around in a clear plastic bag all day!
#WasteLessWednesday – Upcycling don’t bin it transform it into something extremely lovely.
#TopTipsThursday – Time saving and Top Tips. What’s your favourite.
#FoodWasteFriday – Food waste and how to minimise it.

Visit the website here.
Click here for Zero Waste week

Of course its not just me  doing it- there are loads of bloggers doing all kinds of stuff. You can find them herded together in one easy to access place on the Zero Waste website and listen to them wittering – sorry twittering – on on the twitter hashtag #zerowasteweek

If you want to join in you can make a pledge here on the zero waste website. If you decide to blog about it you can decorate your blog or  post with various buttons, if you don’t you can print off posters for your living walls (easy tiger!) with these links posters and pdfs

Read more about My zero waste weeks here

Summer Holidays

Do you need DEET check out these Malarial regions here
Read about DEET and the plasticfree alternatives here

Which times of the day are worst for The UV index here.

UV-Control Merino (Knitwear)

A UV absorbing finish is applied to the Merino wool product during dyeing or bleaching at either yarn stage, fabric stage or during knitted garment finishing. The finish can also be applied after dyeing either by exhaustion or by padding. Read more

More about merino

Read more about Plastic free fun in the sun here.

Baking Aids

Baking paper – also known as greaseproof bakery paper or parchment paper, is grease proof paper that is used in baking and cooking. It provides a heat-resistant, non-stick surface to bake on. It used to be made by beating the paper fibres. Now it may have a plastic or chemical coating.

Not to be confused with waxed paper. They may look the same but are different products.

Waxed paper (or wax paper as it is also called) actually has wax on it. This too creates a non stick surface but it cannot be used at high temperatures so cannot be used for baking.

Lakeland says this about their Food-Saver Waxed Paper Roll 30cm x 25m
This extra strong, double sided waxed paper roll is designed to prevent food from drying out, sweating and losing texture. Great for maintaining the freshness of cheese, bacon, and for wrapping greasier items like chicken legs and pastries, it helps to keep food fresh without sweating and forms a natural barrier against moisture and bacteria.

But they are phasing  it out.

Lush making an Exhibition

lush are one of the more forward thinking British companies. They are ethical in all kinds of ways and  sell a lot of their beauty products unwrapped. Good if you are trying to live plastic free and not hurt the bunnies. Read more About ethical Lush here

They do

unwrapped soap
solid shampoo  read my review here
solid conditioner read my review here
unpacked henna

I don’t use them much as the shops smell way to strong. I can’t go in without sneezing. But there are plenty who do who. Here is a great series of reviews by Minimalist Exposure

And they do stuff like this:

One of four Pop Ups being staged to support the Lush 2017 Creative Showcase event in London next month, Naked House is part gallery exhibition and part immersive experience curated by the brand team at Lush to show just how easy it is to make the switch to Naked (as in living with less packaging).
Read more here.


2017 August

Summer and it’s time for high tea with

Strawberry jam and scones
First pick your strawberries. Unless you have been super organised and grown some, you will need to visit a pick your own farm. Find a PYO farm here ….
Now you can make some jam. I know you can get it in glass jars but the lids are plastic lined. Jam recipe here

And Cucumber Sandwiches
Cakes can be tricky but Asian stores and Polish delis often stock the smaller kind.

And then of course you need a nice cup of tea…
What’s in your tea bag? Paper and tea? you wish! Most teabags contain one or more
And have been chlorine bleached.
There are plastic free teabags but they often come plastic packed.
And yet in a strange twist of fate you can get conventional tea bags that contain plastic in compostable packaging.

Read up about it here.

After which you will no longer want to use a conventional tea bag ever again. And you will have to be super rich to afford the cleaner greener alternatives even if you can find them in plastic free packaging. And please let me if you do.
So what to do when you want a nice cup of tea?
Loose leaves are the way forward. But how to steep them? If you are brewing up for the WI, a teapot is fine but what when you want a quick cuppa for one?
You can get cotton bags that you can use to make your own teabags but really who can be bothered with that kind of faff.

I have found that a steel mesh single cup infuser works perfectly. It sits on your mug, you fill it with loose tea, let the brew, brew then remove. Really no effort at all and very easy to empty into the compost bin after. Mine was given as a gift but I have found something similar on Amazon

Fun In The Sun

Don’t forget if you are going out berry picking to slap on some sun block.
Sun protection even on cloudy days is vital. But dont listen to me, have a look at website an invaluable source that should be read by everyone. Though you might find yourself spending the rest of Summer cowering in a cellar coming out only after dark after doing so.
But educate yourself and you can enjoy the sun sensibly.


There is lots more information about sun protection here. Do read up before you decide to make your own.

Oily Sun Tan Lotion

The following information is for guidance only. None of the following recipes or tips have not been tested on anyone other than me. I strongly advise you do your own research and proceed very carefully as sunburn is not only painful and aging but dangerous.

I have been mixing up sun tan lotion using zinc from home with rice bran oil bought in a Thai supermarket.
It chose an oil in a plastic bottle but there is a reason for that. On the island we are staying I have seen several points where plastic bottles are collected for recycling and none for glass. I have seen a lot of glass bottles piled up round the bins. Judging by the dust and weeds they have been there a long time. So I while I could have got coconut oil in a glass jar, I chose rice bran in a PET plastic bottle. principals are fine but not if they add to everlasting waste trashing up this island. And glass also lasts forever, is heavy and costs a lot to transport. PET plastic bottles are easy to recycle. They are the plastic most often collected by litter pickers because they have a value.
So I chose to buy one big plastic bottle of oil because it is most likely to be disposed of “properly”.

I added the zinc to oil to make lotion which so far seems to be working. You can see my recipe here. making your own sunblock

Rest Of The Oil
It was a very big bottle so I used some more oil to make
suntan lotion you can see my recipe here.
It can also be used to make

After sun lotion
I don’t believe all the hype about essential oils. That said it seems that lavender essential really might help with burns. And it is grown locally in Yorkshire. So I use lavender oil added to a carrier oil to make a soothing after sun lotion.

Mosquito repellent
I also use citronella essential oil mixed in a carrier oil as a mosquito repellent. I don’t know if it really works by which I don’t know if it repels Mosquitos. I feel it does and it certainly seems to soothe bites and reduce irritation. Obviously mosquitos present a real risk of malaria and you should consider your options very carefully before you proceed with this option.

Essential oils
Essential oils are resource hungry, have a large environmental footprint and should only be used on special occasions.
You can read more here


County Durham Helen McGonigal

Helen McGonigal is a happily married, mum of three from County Durham. She’s a writer, author of ‘Mummy Makes Milk’ and literacy workshop consultant. Helen blogs at Spot of Earth, where she writes about her passions which include education, parenting, the environment, cooking and children’s literature, among other things. The family’s zero waste journey kind of crept up on them!

As a family, we try to live as waste and plastic free as possible. This involves buying locally where possible from independent butchers, where we can use our own containers, and greengrocers, where most of the produce is loose. We also minimise plastic in the bathroom. We try to reuse any plastic that comes into the house as much as possible before it is disposed of.

I spread the word through my blog. I have also just added a plastic free assembly to my literacy workshop service, because I feel passionately that children can carry this message forward and make bigger changes.

A bit more…

This post was written by the contributor. It is a PfU.K. Directory submission.

And the Pf U.K. Directory is…?

…a directory of UK-based groups, organisations businesses and individuals who are responding to the problems presented by the misuse of plastic. That does not mean  anti-plastic necessarily but certainly plastic-problem aware.

The DIRECTORY is to promote their fantastic work. Read more here…

Got a project?
It is very easy to get a project featured. Each contributor submits a short synopsis of their project, focussing on the plastic aware element and I post it. You can read the submission guidelines here.


2017 July round up

Hello and welcome to July. This month sees us back from Japan and hanging out on a beach in Thailand.
We are backpacking #plasticfree. You can find more details as to how and where in the packer tracker section.
But first”Plastivists united will never have to secumb to icecream in tubs”. Yes as a slogan it needs some work but here’s how we are going to bring plasticfree to the masses..

Stronger Together

I always wanted the blog to be a resource where numerous people could Collaborate on producing the bestest ever data base of plastic free resources for UK plastivists.

So if you want to contribute and I hope you do, please do this.

It’s not perfect but here’s how it works: find a plastic free product i.e. Pasta, search the database or A to Z index to see if there is already an entry for that product. If so, add the details in the comments for that post. You should be able to do this quite easily via any of your social media accounts.
If you have a post on the subject on your own blog please  leave a link to your own post again in the comments section.

Plastic Free Products

The easiest way to find a #plasticfree alternative in our huge database of products is to use the search function (#grandmothersuckeggs!) However we have also organised them by other criteria.
By Category Everything from food to Gardening to personal care
By Task 
Want to know how to wash the pots, #plasticfree? Check out these posts organised by task!
A to Z organised… erm…alphabetically
By Place
Towns organised alphabetically that have #plasticfree/ packaging free/ zerowaste shops. Find them here.

By Shops
Local shops Places selling refills and packaging free food (of a type normally sold prepacked)Heres a list of towns with shops selling loose food.
Supermarkets & Chainstores can surprise you – check out the plastic-free and reduced packaging products here.

By Blogger & Projects
Plastic Free People
Plastic Free Bloggers U.K. based bloggers can be found here 

Campaigns Arts, Media and Education Can be
found here

WHAT! NO POST? if you cannot find a post about pasta for example, tell me and I will set one  up.
Sharing Is caring And with your contributions,  posts can stay up to date and we can all benefit from each other’s expertise.

What do you think? Inputs, feedback and thoughts greatly welcomed. Anyone fancy out trying out and commenting on the system?

Big gold star to Yolanda for adding information on the ice cream post. Yum!


Competitions for designers

Any clever designers out there? Want to help design out plastic pollution and win a share of 1 million? Read more here.

And now you can reward yourself by entering our Giveaway. It’s from a company called Greencane 
They make #plasticfree tissue products including loo roll. Wahey.

They will be giving away a cardboard box  containing

32 Rolls of Toilet Paper (8 packs of 4 rolls)
6 Rolls of Paper Towels (3 packs of 2 rolls)
3 Boxes Facial Tissues

How Plastic Free

The products come in individually wrapped packs.
All the packaging is paper, card and or cellophone.
The cellophane is certified  as commercially compostable.
Delivered to your door in a cardboard box from their Brighton warehouse.
There may be some plastic tape on the box but they are working on that!
I have reviewed these produce – you can read my review here.

Enter Here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter by clicking the link and following the instructions to either
Visit the Greencane Facebook page and leave a like
Comment here on the blog on why you want to wipe #plasticfree
Tweet our cheeky tweet
OR, for a better chance of winning, all three.

SORRY but this is only for people living in the UK


Can’t wait? For lots more info and to order products  visit the website

Composting Plastic At Home
FYI While most agree that some  plastics are indeed compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. I have used and composted a number of compostable plastic products 

Of course every month is plastic free for me but plastic free July is a time to make a bit of extra effort.

What is Plastic Free July

The aim is to cut your consumption of one use plastic, for one month; how much you choose to cut is up to  you – read my take.

A bit of history

Plastic Free July started in 2011 in Australia  in 2013 it went global. They have a great website and are all round good eggs.

My Plastic Free July
I try to cut all disposable plastics including the lesser known sneaky plastics

 U.K. Participants

2017  This year progress  and uk bloggers can be found  here 

More Info

And you might like these other health & hygiene posts.

Packer Tracker

Back in Malaysia and not drinking bottled water. Is the tap water safe to drink in Malaysia. I can find out using this super cool website ” can I drink the water.”  I pick the country you want and read the result. And  No it’s not safe to drink. But it does have a few water refill machines that are cheap and easy to use.

You can read about them here

Otherwise it’s back to tap water made safe by a steripen. You can find that and other plastic free travel aids here.

How Much Plastic

Last month others from the PLastic Is Rubbish Facebook group agreed to track our plastic consumption for a show and tell at the end of the month. This is not a competition or one upmanship but an out of interest kind of project.

I don’t know how they did but I made more plastic trash last month than I have done in the whole of my 10 years boycotting plastic. I was camping in Japan where it is almost impossible to buy food plastic free. When travelling a I take my plastic free shopping kit of reusable bags, tiffin tins and compostable PLA bags. But this only works if you can find loose produce. In Japan they love packaging. We did what we could but noodles, rice and even potatoes came in plastic bags. While we sometimes found a loose lettuce most veg was bagged. Most protein wether meat fish or soya was again well wrapped. The usual ploy of buying food in markets and local shops didn’t work here because even then they plastic wrapped it. They really are obsessed with packaging. To console ourselves we drank a lot of beer in tins. Plastic lined of course.


But this month should be better because we are back in Malaysia.


Fatty Acids – Oils, Butters & Waxes

Oils Butters & Fatty Acids  I Use
For Cosmetics
You can use a lot of waxes and oils neat to moisturise and cleanse or as as ingredients in creams.
Coconut oil– a hard oil which has a very low melting point. Use neat as for everything from hair care to make up removal or add to creams and balms. Can also be used for cooking. Read more 
Cocoa butter – a hard wax which has a high melting point. Use neat as a lip balm or add to creams and balms.
Bees wax – a hard oil wax has a very high melting point add to creams and balms to make them firmer.
Shea butter – a creamy butter with a surprisingly low melting point. Good for making cream and lotions. There’s an  introduction to shea butter here
Castor oil – a very thick oil – add it to lip balm. Can often be bought in chemists.
Almond oil a lighter oil. Can be bought in big supermarkets, Asian shops and online

Cosmetics & Eating
I love a multi tasking product and you cant do better than a moisturiser you cook chips in.
Rapeseed oil – a lighter oil with quite a strong scent but U.K. sourced. Read More
Olive oil – a richer oil can sometimes be bought on tap in the U.K. Used for cooking and more
Rice Bran Oil less “oily” than olive oil and rapeseed oil and not as malodorous as the latter. I used it to make suntan lotion and mosquito repellent.

Only Eating
While I love to get my monies worth I draw the line at lard as a beauty regime.
Butter – eating only. Read more
Lard – a plastic free substitute for cooking oil.

Using oils to make creams and cosmetics
Read about the fatty acids we eat here

Essential Oils Are not an oil at all as they don’t contain any fatty acids.

Oils I try To avoid
Palm Oil because it is often badly farmed read more here
Margarine because it is a hydrogenated oil.
And oils derived from petrol. Don’t want to eat them donut want to moisturise with them

Fatty Acids Or Fossil Fuel?

Fossil fuel oil is slippery is very versatile. As well being the base for most plastics and driving our cars it can be found in less obvious places. It is sold as a moisturizer (think Vaseline and even E45), petroleum-derived, synthetic fragrances are added to many commercial cosmetic products and hexane (another petroleum derivative), is used to extract some vegetable oils.

While I don’t mind oil on my pistons I draw the line at rubbing it on my skin or using it to fry my eggs.

So what to use instead? Renewable Fatty Acids of course

What Are Fatty Acids?

So let’s talk fatty acids. For the purposes of this post, fatty acids are the oily greasy stuff you use to cook with, cut off your bacon, burn in your beeswax candles or rub on as your Shea Butter Body Moisturiser.

They are the oil that is formed in a plant or the fat stored by an animal. There is of course a lot more to them then that and Meanwhile here is a beginners guide.

Fatty acids are fatty, oily, greasy or buttery. They can be harvested from plants and animals.
Vegetable Derived These are obtained from the seeds, nuts and even flesh of plants.There are many kinds of vegetable oils, butters and waxes. Mains uses are cooking & cosmetics.
Animal Derived  This is the fat stored by an animal. These are mostly solid ranging from hard and waxy like lard to the softer butterExamples would be butter & lard

Essential Oils Are not an oil at all as they don’t contain any fatty acids.

Main uses of fatty acids are cooking, cosmetics, lubricating and soap making.
Some like Jojoba should only be used for cosmetic purposes. Coconut oil on the other hand can be used for just about everything. Find out about using oils to make creams and cosmetics here.

Types Of Oil, Wax Or Butter
They come in a variety of forms under the following headings – but it is a rough guide only.
Liquid Oil – never solidifies
Solid Oil – firm when cool but has very low melting point so sometimes it may be counted as an oil i.e. Coconut oil
Butters – a solid oil. Has a high melting point. Rather confusing. Milk butter for example acts more like a solid oil, while Cocoa butter is more like a wax.
Waxes – very hard-of a candle (wax), like consistency. Bees wax for example.

Next you might want to know how your fats and oils they have been obtained and processed – especially if you plan to eat your oil.
Animal fats are collected after slaughter. Concerns here are rather about how the animal was treated before it was slaughtered.
Extracting vegetable oils and processing them is a more complex process. Most commercially produced oils are solvent extracted. This involves a chemical solvent like the petroleum-derived hexane. This technique is used for most of the “newer” oils such as soybean and canola oils.
Mechanical methods where the oil is squeezed or pressed out of the vegetable matter in a variety of ways involves less in the way of petroleum derivatives but depending on the method used can affect the oil. Cold pressed oil is considered the least invasive method of extraction though it also less efficient.
Read more abouts oil extraction here.

Hydrogenated Oil
Both animal and vegetable fats can be hydrogenated.
Hydrogenated oil is made by forcing reactive hydrogen gas gas into oil at high pressure in the presence of a palladium catalyst.
Hydrogenated oil is more stable, does not go rancid as quickly
It has a higher melting point, so can be used for frying.
It is used to make liquid oils more solid. Margarine is an example of a hydrogenated oil.
Oils have been hydrogenated since the 1930s.
Hydrogenating oil modifies the chemistry significantly.
The fatty acids in oils are unsaturated fats. They are unstable.
Hydrogenating oil turns these unstable fatty acids into new more stable fats known as trans fats acids.
There are concerns that trans fatty acids may increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol.
Because they are not natural the digestive system does not know what to do with them. They may actually bioaccumulate in the body.
Read more here



Most oils and waxes last for ages. Some like butter will go off.

Find out more basic information about ingredients and alternative products here
Using oils to make creams and cosmetics
Read about the fatty acids we eat here


Chewing Gum

I don’t do chewing gum because not only does it come packed in plastic, it is actually made from plastic. Yes, while there are a few natural gums on the market  most chewing gums are actually synthetic…. plastic in fact.

As I am sure you know, chewing gum is a non-nutritive, non-digestible, water-insoluble substance that can be chewed, (duh!), without disintegrating, for a long period of time.

And that it consists of an elastomer, a chewy base, with added sweeteners and  flavours to make the experience more pleasant.

Up until WWII, the chewing gum base was usually made from chicle  a latex sap that comes from the sapodilla tree –  a  natural rubber. This has since been replaced with synthetic rubber, a plastic.

Which Elastomer

Elastomers in gum are what give it the chew.

These used to be and occasionally still are natural latexes such as couma macrocarpa (also called leche caspi or serve), loquat (also called nispero),tunu, elution and the most popular, chicle.

These days most elastomers are synthetic rubbers such as butyl rubber

The raw materials for making butyl rubber are isobutylene and isoprene. Isoprene is a byproduct of  naphtha or oil, and as a side product in the production of ethylene.

Other Stuff

Other ingredients according to Wikipedia  may include the following:

  • Resins: provide a cohesive body or strength, and are most often glycerol esters of gum, terpene resins, and/or polyvinyl acetate ( more about the latter below).
  • Waxes: act as softening agents and are most usually paraffin or microcrystalline wax.
  • Fats: behave as plasticizers and mainly come from hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Emulsifiers: help to hydrate, the most common being lecithin or glycerol monostearate.
  • Fillers: impart texture and the most commonly used are calcium carbonate or talc.
  • Antioxidants: protect from oxidation and extend shelf-life; the most common type is BHT.

The Gum Association says

Gum base ” is made of a combination of food-grade polymers, waxes and softeners that give gum the texture desired by consumers and enable it to effectively deliver sweetness, flavor and various other benefits, including dental benefits.

What are polymers?

A polymer is a string of molecules (monomers) that usually contain carbon and hydrogen. Polymers are found naturally in the human body, animals, plants, and minerals. For example, DNA is a polymer, as are the proteins and starches in the foods we eat.

Man-made polymers can be identical in structure to those found in the natural environment, but in many cases, these polymers provide guaranteed consistency, quality and purity that are not always found in some natural materials. This quality is particularly important for food-grade polymers used as ingredients.

What are food-grade polymers?

Food-grade polymers have been rigorously tested and have been determined to be safe for use in food. In chewing gum, polymers are what provide gum with its basic elastic properties. All polymers used in gum are food-grade and are legally permitted for use by international/national regulatory agencies, including those in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

You can read more about synthetic polymers here.

Safe To Chew?

So are these food grade plastics gums with their paraffin and  yummy vinyl acetate additive  are safe?  Well plastic and paraffin certainly don’t sound appetising and vinyl acetate was once  classified by the Canadian Government as a “potentially high hazard substance.” This was later overturned (2010) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). The decision was based on information received during the public comment period, and  from the risk assessment conducted by the European Union.

Environmental Hazard?

YES!!! Because it is plastic, gum doesn’t biodegrade – which means it has to be carefully disposed of – either landfilled or incinerated. If it ends up on the street as much of it does, it sticks like mad to the pavement and looks really ugly. It needs to be specially removed – which costs a lot. “The LGA (Local Government Authority points out that the average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy – but 50 times that to clean up (£1.50). Most chewing gum never biodegrades and once it is trodden into the pavement this requires specialised equipment to remove. “

Natural Gums

If you cant give up gum there are some natural gums out there. I have not tried these so please let me know how they taste. And I guess they come plastic packed. Again do let me know.

Peppersmith U.K. do a natural based gum.

It contains Xylitol (wood sugar), Natural chicle gum base, Peppermint oil, Calcium carbonate, Gum arabic (thickner), Rapeseed lecithin (emulsifier), Vegetable glycerol (humectant), Carnauba wax (glazing agent).Suitable for vegetarians.

You can buy it at Holland & Barrett, other stores and of course on line.

Here is a review of 8 of the healthier chews available in the U.S.

Sneaky Plastics

Here are some more products that surprisingly contain plastic.


2017 June

Hello there. We are now in Japan where it is suprisingly green. Lots more trees than I expected. We are travelling round in a carvan. That is a car big enough to have a fixed bed in the back but no more. It came with a little camp stove and some bowls. We are staying in rest stops. These are car parks with toilets where you can sleep the night for free. It’s fanatastic but its not a campsite and cooking has to be quick and discrete. And there are no pot washing facilities.Or showers come to that. It’s an interesting experience. More of which later.

In the meantime…..

New Kid On The Blog

Sarah from Devon blogs about living plastic free in this lovely part of the world. Read about it here.

Leighton Buzzard

Read this great write up of shopping for packaging free products in Leighton Buzzard. Everything from brushes to beer refills. Thanks to Vicky and her great blog


Tea Bag Update

Some interesting news about tea bags. Seems that they can be made from compostable materials after all. As I’m sure you know, conventional teabags contain non-biodegradable plastic but some companies are bucking this trend.

Nope, our tea bag paper is made of a special blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres. And no other packaging either according to twitter users.

But sadly not completely true.  “The paper used to make the tea sachets (envelopes) does have a Polyethylene lamination. We are working on a recyclable solution as we speak”.

oh dear.

And this from Twinings Few things in life are as fresh and delicious tasting as loose leaf tea – or as simple and convenient as the teabag. The good news is, our pyramid shaped silk teabags let you enjoy the best of both worlds. We call them silky pyramids – although the bag is in fact made from a manmade, biodegradable fabric. Looking through the prism-shaped mesh, you can see the beautiful whole dried leaves of tea or colourful buds, where they’ve got just the right amount of room to swirl about in the hot water and release their flavour.

You can read more here.

Sounds good right. Hold your horses… sadly the rest of the packaging for the tea bag is plastic and very much so. A reply on twitter tells me Our pyramid envelopes are made from PET 12um / Polyethylene EVOH 60um which unfortunately is not recyclable.

One step forward!

Which is strange because Twinings do conventional teabags ( made form plastic) in compostable packaging. Or at least they used to.

Twinings Tea recently announced they will be using a compostable packaging for their Everyday tea line in the UK. The packaging is made from Innovia’s Natureflex NM material.

Could they not combine the two to make a completely compostable product?

In the meantime it’s back to loose tea…

How Much Plastic

Myself  and others form the PLastic Is Rubbish Facebook group will be tracking our plastic consumption for a show and tell at the end of the month. This is not a competition or one upmanship but an out of interest kind of project. Feel free to join in. Don’t need to do it for a month, a week or a day will do.
Post at the end of the month, each week or whenever works for you. A list, photos, total weight however you want to record it. Post them in the plastic Is Rubbish group with the hashtag #myplastictrash.

Any other ideas on how to organise such a project greatly welcomed as I am talking off the top of my head here.
I can tell you now mine is going to be dreadful. I am in Japan and everything comes plastic packed!

Plastic Free June

Want to really cut your plastics? Then this  is a great campaign organised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCSUK).The MSCUK is a UK charity “that cares for our seas, shores and wildlife”.

The Plastic Challenge takes place every year in the U.K. in June.It is organized by the

The MSCUK “have a vision of a world where plastics don’t end up in our seas and on our beaches, where they persist and impact our marine life.”
So they challenge you to give up single use plastics for a month (June), and get sponsored whilst doing it. The money goes to support MSCUK projects which are many and very worthwhile.

You can read more about it here

Giving Away

Getting ready for our next giveaway. Plastic free loo roll, and tissues and kitchen wipes. In a big cardboard box. Wahey!
Is from a company called Greencane 
They make tissue products and will be giving away a
 Mixed Box
a cardboard box, containing

32 Rolls of Toilet Paper
(8 packs of 4 rolls)
6 Rolls of Paper Towels
(3 packs of 2 rolls)
3 Boxes Facial Tissues

The products come in individually wrapped packs.
All the packaging was paper, card and or cellophone.
The cellophane is certified  as commercially compostable.
Delivered to your door in a cardboard box from their Brighton warehouse.
There may be some plastic tape on the box but they are working on that!
Anyone trying to live a plastic free life will know what good news this is!
I have reviewed these produce – you can read my review here

So call back soon to enter the giveaway!


Can’t wait? For lots more info and to order products  visit the website

Composting Plastic At Home
FYI While most agree that some  plastics are indeed compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. I have used and composted a number of compostable plastic products 

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here

What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. Read more about compostable plastics here

More Info

And you might like these other health & hygiene posts.

Packer Tracker

In Japan where thanks this super cool website I know can I drink the water. It’s the only thing I can get plastic free!


Plastic Pollution

Saw and photographed some dreadful instances of #plasticpollution in India. You can see all our dirty pictures here on our Planet Trash FB page. Its why we travel plasticfree. You can see our plastic free backpack, find out where we are and link to other travel related posts here

Sign Up
There are now so many plastic free petitions I am now listing them on a separate page. as you already have your pen out, head on over to the petitions page.

Don’t be silly. I know nobody uses pens, or paper petitions come to that – but if you ever do want to write something try these refillable fountain pens… 

Latest Campaigns

You can read about other campaigns and campaigners here.

Product Of The Month

With summer coming it has to be fake bake lotion – of course! No point waiting for the British summer. Tan yourself . How to make your own fake bake and does it really work?

Rest Of The Year

See the plastic free diary here.



L is for …


Loose Foods?

Anyone who lives in the U.K.  knows how hard it is to buy staple food like rice, pasta or cocoa loose and unpackaged. Do you know how long it took me to track down some plastic free cocoa? But I did.

To save you the stress of cocoa free nights,  I am putting, together a list of stores that sell loose products (of the type that normally come packaged), that allow you to use your own (plastic free), packaging to take it home in.
Just to reiterate… these shops do provide bags – plastic ones. You will need to take your own plastic-free /reusable bags & packaging. Find out where to get them, here.


Many thanks to Vicky for this….”I have been trying to reduce my plastic use, and struggling to find places local to where I live, on the Wirral. I have managed to find a weigh &amp; save shop in Wallasey, it goes by the name Cake Creations, 216 Liscard Rd, Wallasey CH44 5TN
It would be great if you could list this on your site as I really struggled to find it. The lady is lovely and weighs my own jars first, notes the weight then lets me fill them and weighs again. They have a range of cereals, lentils, nuts, dried fruit, sugars, spices, there really is quite a lot. “
This is a “weigh & save shop” – you can read more about them here.


Gaia Wholefoods in Lincoln
Central Market
Lincoln, Lincolnshire

07891 370197
Nicola, the proprietor sells whole food that she bags up but is willing to weigh out into your own containers if you give her enough notice.
Thanks to Not Quite A Vegan for that



You can find out  how to shop plastic free, here 
Other loose food outlets here.
More plastic free products over at the A to Z

Help Me

Please add any shops you know of in the comments below and I will incorporate them into the post.
Links to reviews and blogs particularly welcome. Don’t have a blog? Love guest posts…


Essential Oils

Essential oils have gone from being an obscure aspect of botany to an all round marketing  ‘good thing’.  Almost every product you buy from washing powder to shampoo trumpets that they contain essential oils. So much better, so much greener. As such they have been embraced by the environmental movement as the fragrance for your home made products, a staple in  your medicine chest and the relaxant in your bath.

I have been using them for years thinkin that they are a so eco friendly. But are they really? And are they even oils?

What Are Essential Oils?

They are not actually oils because they do not contain fatty acids.
They are in fact terpenes
Terpenes organic compounds produced by plants (and occasionally insects).
Terpenes are made up of isoprene units, each consisting of five carbon atoms attached to eight hydrogen atoms (C5H8)
They are often strong-smelling.
So essential oils are the strong smelling terepenes found in plants and insects.


Terepenes (along with phenolics nitrogen-containing compounds ) are called secondary metabolites.
Secondary metabolites are chemicals produced by plants for which no role has yet been found in growth, photosynthesis, reproduction, or other “primary” functions. These chemicals are extremely diverse; many thousands have been identified in several major classes. Each plant family, genus, and species produces a characteristic mix of these chemicals, and they can sometimes be used as taxonomic characters in classifying plants. Humans use some of these compounds as medicines, flavorings, or recreational drugs. 

Just so you know – search for terepenes and you get a lot of information about marijuana

They are often characteristic of particular species, are sometimes only produced under particular environmental conditions and for different reasons. The lemon tree for examples produces a pungent oil to repel insects while the rose creates pungent oil to attract them.

N.B. Fragrance oil and essential oil are NOT the same thing. Fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or “perfume” often refers to synthetic scents.

 Medical Qualities

Some essential oils appear to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Others may help speed up healing. However while many claims are made about the potency of essentail oils there is not enough scientific evidence to back them up. Generally it seems to be accepted that they do some limited good though should not be relied on to cure any serious complaints or used to swab down an operating theatre.

While they might not be hugely effective they dont do much harm either. Secondary metabolites are broken down relatively easily so are unlikely to accumulate in large quantities in the environment.

Growing the Oil

Though figures vary you can safely say it takes a lot of plants to produce a small amount of oil..

For one pound of essential oil you will need
50-60 pounds of eucalyptus
200 -250 lbs of lavender Sources include Bulgaria, England, France, USSR, Yugoslavia, Australia, USA, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, Italy and Spain2 2,000 lbs of cypress
5,000 to 10,000 pounds of rose blossoms to produce one pound of essential oil. Primary cultivation sites for one company include: France, Tasmania, Spain, Italy, England, and China.

Extracting the Oil

Terpenes are usually extracted from plants by steam distillation or chemical extraction.

Environmental Concerns

No matter how they are grown essential oils take up a lot of agricultural land
Growing single species for harvest results in a monoculture style of farming.
Plus all the other demands of farming, – water, fuel, fertilisers organic or not.
It is a lot of input for a very small harvest of what is basically a luxury product.
Add to that the fuel needed to extract the oils “If steam distillation is used temperatures above two hundred degrees applied anywhere from 2-24 hours to extract various oils. ”
If chemical solvents are used which are more effective and so require less plant material, but in turn pose issues of toxicity for people and the environment. 
Some oils are harvested from the wild from threatened species.
Cropwatch, a non-profit that keeps tabs on the natural aromatics industry, maintains a list of wild species threatened including rosewood, sandalwood, amyris, thyme, cedarwood, jatamansi, gentian, wormwood and cinnamon,

Should You Use Them…

Personally all of which makes me wary of using essentail oils. I do love the smell but I don’t like the idea that so many resources go into making one tiny bottle of luxury scent.
If you are going to use essentail oils please use them sparingly and buy from a company that is clear about how they grow and harvest their oils.

Take a look at Pravera or Yorkshire Lavender

How To Use Them…

Read more about the oils we use and what for, HERE.


See a full range of homemade #plasticfree personal care products here 
And find out how to make lots more stuff HERE
Find all plastic free personal care products here…


An introduction to some of the stuff you need to make the above



Here we go gathering nuts in May talking of which did you know they did loose nuts in Lidles? Of course they offer you a plastic bag to put them in but if you take your own cotton produce bags you can get your nuts plastic free. Which brings us to this months fantastic give away.

Giving Away

U.K. Made cotton produce bags – win a set for free…. Many shops and supermarkets still sell some produce loose. I am talking unpackaged onions, bread rolls and even dried fruit, rice and nuts if you know where to look. (Try here). But if you want them plastic free you have to take your own packaging.
Produce bags are reusable bags that are, (as the name suggests), for your loose produce. Until now I have had to buy my produce bags from abroad so I was delighted when I discovered DoYourBit, a U.K. Based company who make organic cotton reusable bags from fabric sourced from a fair traded local company. Yay!
To celebrate Plastic Is Rubbish has teamed up withDo Your Bit and in May will be offering you the opportunity to win a set of 3 drawstring produce bags.
Sorry this offer is only open to people living in the U.K. Enter by clicking the link and following the instructions to either visit the Do Your Bit Facebook page, comment here on the blog or tweet. OR all three. You can also  tweet once a day, everyday for a better chance of winning. Good luck. By June you too can be shopping plastic free. Read more and enter here 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or Buy Your Own

But if you can’t wait that long or don’t feel lucky, you can still enjoy the frisson of plastic free shopping by buying bags right now from the Do Your Bit shop

Read more about Do Your Bit in the Plastic Free U.K. Directory

Read about produce bags and how to use them here And the plastic free shopping kit here You can find a a list of refill/loose food shops here.


We make our own yoghurt. It is easy enough and theoretically you should be able to use your own home made live yoghurt to make more live yoghurt. However we find that after a while our home made live yoghurt seems to loose its strength and we cannot make more using this batch. Soevery few weeks we need to buy a new container  of yogurt for a fresh culture. Just found out you can freeze your yoghurt starter culture. And buy starter cultures on line.

Plastic Pollution

Saw and photographed some dreadful instances of #plasticpollution in India. You can see all our dirty pictures here on our Planet Trash FB page. Its why we travel plasticfree. You can see our plastic free backpack, find out where we are and link to other travel related posts here

Packer Tracker

Off to Malaysia on our way to Japan. Is the tap water safe to drink in Malaysia. Or  Japan come to that? I can find out using this super cool website ” can I drink the water.”  I pick the country you want and read the result. Japan? All I  need to take is my refillable bottle. Malaysia? No. But it does have a few water refill machines that are cheap and easy to use. You can read about them here Otherwise it’s back to tap water made safe by a steripen. You can find that and other plastic free travel aids here. Sign Up There is a Canadian petite to ban non compostable Produce Sticker Labels WHEREAS composting is available and encouraged in most communities and many backyards in Canada; AND WHEREAS the use of plastic non-compostable identification stickers contaminates the finished compost in commercial and private compost facilities; The petition is to change both domestic and import regulations related to food labeling to require compostable stickers or vegetable based ink/food safe stamps on all fruits and vegetables sold in Canada. Interesting. You can sign it here. Do it quick it is being delivered in mMay More There are now so many plastic free petitions I am now listing them on a separate page. as you already have your pen out, head on over to the petitions page. Don’t be silly. I know nobody uses pens, or paper petitions come to that – but if you ever do want to write something try these refillable fountain pens…  Latest Campaigns Coming up….

Product Of The Month

Not plastic free but recycled and recyclable. For those time when you need to use Lycra, and we see swimwear as one of those times, let’s make the synthetic we use as sustainable as possible. This is a nice project…Davy Jones have just launched a ranges of swimwear made from ” 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste including spent and ghost fishing nets. And are designed to last longer, fighting the trend of throwaway fashion and creating something that can keep up with you in all conditions. WE are looking to build a closed-loop resource system within the brand. While OUR SUITS ARE BUILT TO LAST, when THEY DO eventually reach the end of THEIR life, we want you to be able to return them to us and we will recycle or regenerate the resource content. The target will be to achieve 60% closed loop recycling by 2020.” And they are made in the U.K. Visit the website here  Find other ethical swimwear here