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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.eucalyptus oil featured

I have been using them for years safe in the knowledge 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 – 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. Ah ha!

So essential oils are the strong smelling terepenes found in plants and insects.

Terpenes

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

 

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Tiffin Tin

There is some fantastic street food in China but they serve it in polystyrene (styrofoam) trays. So you will need to carry your own tiffin tin Dont worry if you forgot to pack one, the Chinese love tiffin tins. We got this beauty in a small supermarket. It has a screw on lid so is very secure and even a handle which made boiling water in our yurt easier. Rather it made making the tea with the boiling water so much easier.

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This post is my contribution to Zero Waste Week (‪#ZerowasteWeek) the brainchild of Rae Straus (also featured in our P-f U.K. directory). Each day, for 7 days, we will feature a tip to help you eat, drink and – ermmm – excrete in the most sustainable and rubbish free- way, backpacking kind of way. Each post will appear up on our advent calender of trash free tips. See them there.

 

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String

U.K made woolen string

Got me a new favourite string!

“twool® twine is a strong, soft and subtle British wool alternative to imported jute. Wool is one of the oldest naturally occurring fibres around, it’s a practical material – it lasts, we grow it well in this country, it’s renewable, super sustainable and is currently an underused natural resource.”

“A versatile garden twine made from Dartmoor wool. Super sustainable, socially-responsible and environmentally sound twool twine is strong enough for traditional garden use yet soft enough for floristry, crafts and gifts.”

twool® twine is a strong, soft and subtle British wool alternative to imported jute. Wool is one of the oldest naturally occurring fibres around, it’s a practical material – it lasts, we grow it well in this country, it’s renewable, super sustainable and is currently an underused natural resource.

It’s made in the U.K.from British wool and comes in different colours. See the full range and buy from the website

Other String

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGetting plastic free string can be hard work. It’s easy enough to get biodegradable plastic free string – go for jute, cotton, hemp, sisal, linen and avoid manmade fibers such as nylon and polyester.

Getting it unwrapped however can be a chore. Most big shops sell it plastic wrapped! As they sell everything plastic wrapped. I find it best to search out small hardware stores and market stalls. Even then it is scarce so whenever I see some I buy it.
NB check the bobbin. Once swooped triumphantly on some jute string only to realise later it had a blue plastic inner. How I missed that I don’t know!

My string collection now includes

white cotton from Marsh Hardware shop, Marsh, Huddersfield
brown jute from Todmorden Market
very nice string from a stationers in France.

Poundland

Think I am OK for now! However if I needed some more string I could go topfree string garden Pound land. I have seen these and they are plastic free. You can find a store near you via the website.

 

 

 

Fred Aldous Manchester

string fred Aldousmulticoloured cotton on cardboard tube form Fred Aldous. Check out their fantastic craft store and website

pfree general

They also sell  Nutscene string. You can buy this jute (?) string in a tin or loose. It comes in a range of vibrant colours.

You can also buy string in a tin from the shop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It comes plastic free and unpackaged.

If you can’t get to Yorkshire or Manchester, you can get it direct from the manufacturers (lovely website wide range of products), or from Amazon.

I have never bought on line so I don’t know if it comes plastic wrapped. Do check.

Cotton Wool

You can go to wool shop and buy knitting cotton.

Online

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.

If you can’t buy local please do check the links above to the suppliers and buy direct from them and support their online businesses.

If you can’t do that then you can buy String from Amazon – see a wide range here.  

Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. This is not why we do it.

 

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Candles – Design, which wax & buy

Nothing sets the mood quite as well as candles but it is hard to find plastic free candles. Most come in a protective plastic wrap or  bag. However we tracked down a few.

Which Candle? candles gimped

Parrafin, soy or beeswax.

In the olden days candles were made from a by-product of beef-fat rendering(tallow) which stank and smoked or beeswax which didn’t smell or smoke but was very expensive.Then in the 1820s, French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids. This could be used to make a wax that was harder and burnt far more cleanly.

However the most luxurious and brightest of all candles were made from crystallized spermaceti an oil obtained from the sperm whale. Like beeswax, spermaceti wax had a pleasing odour but also produced a far brighter light. Again it was a harder was so didn’t soften when the atmosphere got hot. Lucky for the sperm whale  who was being hunted into extinction for his light shedding wax, rock oil and its many by-products burst onto the scene. One such by-product was paraffin which could be used to make super-hard, super-bright and, best of all, cheap candles.

Recently, a huge surge in the popularity of candles has led to  new waxes being developed including soy bean wax.

Soy candles are made from a processed form of soybean oil called soy wax. It is very soft so most candles are made in tins or containers. However additives including beeswax, paraffin, or palm wax can be used to make it harder. Additives include: stearic acid, Vybar (a trademarked polymer), mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin wax, ultraviolet absorbers, and bht crystals.

Most candles today are made from one of the following

  • paraffin (a product of petroleum refining);
  • stearin (now produced almost exclusively from palm waxes though initially manufactured from animal fats);
    beeswax
  • Gel Candles produced from gelled mineral oils or synthetic hydrocarbons. They are made in containers.though some are rigid enough to keep their own shape.
  • some plant waxes (generally palm, carnauba, bayberry, or soybean wax);

The size of the flame rate at which the candle burns is determined mostly by the size of the candle wick.

You can find out more about candles here and here.

Candle Types

Taper, Dinner or household candles. The traditional round candles that have to be set in candlesticks or empty wine bottles. Used for dinner parties and power cuts.

Pillar Candles are the modern version. Big and chunky, they are solid and self standing in a variety of sizes.

Floating Candles are designed to float on water.

Tealights are low round candles in a metal container. Much loved by the Ikea crowd. They are used in food warmers or  tealight holders

Container or Filled Candles are non-flammable, heat resistant containers which are filled with wax and  wick. They come in heat-resistant glass jars, tins and less often, pottery.

Votive Candles are come heat-resistant containers often with religious imagery.

Specialty or Novelty Candles come in a wide array of shapes either molded or sculpted by hand.

Scented candles – can be used to create a pleasant ambience or  mask other odours such as cooking or cigarette smoke. They can also be used to keep insects at bay though personally I don’t think they are very effective.

BUY

Basic white unscented candles

Parafin Candles

Bolsius Pack of 6 Household CandlesPrices do a practical range of plain white unscented candles both household & tealight. Last time I looked, so did Bolsius. I have bought both of the above packaged in cardboard from a number of local shops. If you can’t buy them locally you can of course get them on line.

BULK PACK of 14 - Ivory Church Candles (60mm x 152mm)

I found some pillar candles on Amazon which look to be plastic free – please check

 

BULK PACK of 14 – Ivory Church Candles (60m…

Vegetable Wax

If you don’t fancy paraffin candles,these organic, vegetable wax candles look plastic free. they are available from Nigels Ecostore  www.nigelsecostore.com and Amazon. Heaven Scent 24 Organic Unscented Tea Lights

Grehom Organic Dinner Candles (Set of 4) – … from Amazon also look to be plastic free!

NB be aware they contain palm oil but sustainably sourced Scented Candles

Paraffin Based

Price Candle PXT011028 Winter Jasmine Scented Tealights, WhitePrices do a wide range scented tealights and candles in a tins and glass jars with fragrances to suit all moods and occasions.  They also do some odour eaters great for eliminating or rather masking odours which work pretty well. These come as tealights, in tins or glass jars and include

  • HOUSEKEEPER~ Contains extracts of Beeswax, Mandarin & Lemon
  • CHEF’S CANDLE~ Contains extracts of Basil, Patchouli & Geranium
  • OPEN WINDOW~ Contains Lily, Violet & Orange Flower
  • Scented Candle In Tin - (Housekeeper) Prices Patent Candles Open Window Jar

I have bought all the above packaged in cardboard. Please be aware that tins ike this are almost always epoxy resin lined which is (yes you guessed), a plastic.

They can be bought pretty much everywhere.

Soy Candles

You could try Foundry Candles   from Oldham Manchester

“The scents of these delightful hand poured soy candles have been captured perfectly in a tin. Aprox 40 hours burning time. All natural ingredients. Check out all the amazing scents!”

Please be aware that tins  are almost always epoxy resin lined which is  a plastic.

There are plenty more up on Etsy but they are eye wateringly pricey. You might be better off making your own. How hard can it be?

soy wax

You can get soy flakes in a reusable cotton bag

  • Only supplied in the re-usable cotton storage sack if purchased from Amazon or Aura
  • Container blend – NO soot or smoke.
  • Achieves a longer burn than paraffin Wax.
  • Easy to clean up any spills with soap and water.
  • Finest quality American SOY WAX flakes.

Aura’s Eco Soy Wax Flakes. A greener way to make quality candles…. These flakes are the finest quality Eco Soy flakes imported from the United States. Superior to paraffin Wax, candles made with Eco Soy will burn longer and be free of soot & smoke……. BASIC DIRECTIONS: Melt like chocolate. Gradually add your chosen fragrance. Add your colour a little at a time. Secure your wick into the desired container. Pour the melted Eco Soy into your container & leave to harden…..Once set – Enjoy your candle!!

Beeswax

Try these from Etsy, they are made in London and  you should be able to discuss packaging with them.

Buy

One of the real joys of buying #plasticfree is sourcing the stuff in local shops. The excitement when you see milk in glass bottle in the newsagents is beyond words.

However sometime you have to buy on line. If so please see if there are links to sellers direct in the post above.

If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know.

Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. This is not why we do it.

 

Bolsius Pack of 6 Household Candles PRICE'S HOUSEHOLD CANDLES 5PK - 5 CANDLES Sentinel Nightlights X6
Bolsius Pack of 6 Household Candles
£3.98
PRICE’S HOUSEHOLD CANDLES 5PK – 5 CANDLES
£2.44
4
Sentinel Nightlights X6
£3.40
BULK PACK of 14 - Ivory Church Candles (60mm x 152mm) Grehom Organic Dinner Candles (Set of 4) - Ivory Heaven Scent 24 Organic Unscented Tea Lights
BULK PACK of 14 – Ivory Church Candles (60m…
£29.99
These look like they might be unwrapped. Please double check before you buy – then tell me!
Grehom Organic Dinner Candles (Set of 4) – …look to be plastic free! Heaven Scent 24 Organic Unscented Tea Lights
£5.81
Candles Naturally Plant Wax Unfragranced Tealights, Pack of 24, Natural Heaven Scent Natural Organic Jumbo Tea Light Candles - 24 (Long Life 7 hours) Prices Pack of 10 Tealights
Candles Naturally Plant Wax Unfragranced Te… Heaven Scent Natural Organic Jumbo Tea Ligh… Prices Pack of 10 Tealights
£5.24
Price Candle PXT011028 Winter Jasmine Scented Tealights, White Prices Patent Candles Open Window Jar Scented Candle In Tin - (Housekeeper)
Price Candle PXT011028 Winter Jasmine Scent…
£3.13
Prices Patent Candles Open Window Jar
£5.49
Scented Candle In Tin – (Housekeeper)
£6.95
Housekeeper Tealights - (FR441016) Prices Housekeeper Scented Candle in Tin Eliminates Household Odours - TRIPLE PACK Prices open window candle - FR510316x1
Housekeeper Tealights – (FR441016)
£4.95
Prices Housekeeper Scented Candle in Tin El…
£10.99
Prices open window candle – FR510316x1
£13.44
Prices Household Scented Candle in Tin - FR210616 Prices Candles FR541016 Open Window Tealights, Pack of 6, Green Prices Candles FR341016 6-Piece Chef's Tealights
Prices Household Scented Candle in Tin – FR…
£15.33
Prices Candles FR541016 Open Window Tealigh…
£2.48
Prices Candles FR341016 6-Piece Chef’s Teal…
£2.83

 

WASIWAX Handcrafted Wedding Carved Candles (Eternity) Magical Floating Candles - 50 Reusable Floats & 50 Long Burning Wicks fuelled by vegetable oil Clever & Unique Magical Floating Water Candles, 50 Reusable Silver Floats & 50 Long Burning Wicks fuelled by vegetable oil. Wedding Table Centrepiece
WASIWAX Handcrafted Wedding Carved Candles …
£34.90
As these are made in Britain you might be able to ask about plastic-free packaging
Magical Floating Candles – 50 Reusable Floa…
£20.50
Clever & Unique Magical Floating Water …
£20.50
2.5 KILO Eco Soya / Eco Soy Container Candle WAX Flakes - Lovely Alternative to Parrafin Wax 5metre Wedo LX8 (50mm) Candle Making Wick + 50 Sustainers 5 Metres Wedo ECO Candle Making Wick. High Quality - ECO 1
2.5 KILO Eco Soya / Eco Soy Container Candl…
£19.99
5metre Wedo LX8 (50mm) Candle Making Wick +…
£3.09
5 Metres Wedo ECO Candle Making Wick. High …
£2.50
ECO 8 Pre-tabbed Candle Wick - pack of 20 20 Pre Waxed Wicks For Candle Making Teacup / Medium Candles (LX18). 100mm Long.Quantity Jute Ribbon Brown 7/8 Inch by 10 Yard Roll Sold By The Yard
ECO 8 Pre-tabbed Candle Wick – pack of 20
£3.99
20 Pre Waxed Wicks For Candle Making Teacup…
£2.60
Jute Ribbon Brown 7/8 Inch by 10 Yard Roll …
£3.59
Prices Candles Tealights Winter Walk 6 Pack Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Garden Lavender Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Tea Rose
Prices Candles Tealights Winter Walk 6 Pack Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Garden Laven…
£3.12
Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Tea Rose
£3.01
Price Candle PXT011005 Pomegranate and Walnut Scented Tealights, Pink Price Candle PXT011012 Fresh Fig Scented Tealights, Purple Price Candle PXT011010 Cinnamon Sticks Scented Tealights, Beige
Price Candle PXT011005 Pomegranate and Waln…
£3.12
Price Candle PXT011012 Fresh Fig Scented Te…
£3.13
Price Candle PXT011010 Cinnamon Sticks Scen…
£3.13
Price Candle PXT011020 Apple Spice Scented Tealights, Red Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Peach Blossom Soft Geranium Scented Tealights 6 Pack
Price Candle PXT011020 Apple Spice Scented …
£2.69
Prices Fragrance Tealights x 6 Peach Blossom
£2.99
Soft Geranium Scented Tealights 6 Pack
£3.13

 

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Sticky Tape

Sellotape gets right up my nose. Everything biodegradable on my presents except for that sticky little glistening strip. Now some of you may be thinking chill, Sellotape is cellophane and therefore biodegradable. To which I will waspishly reply
“NO! I checked it out.” I wrote to Sellotape and they said they now only used plastic to make their tapes.
You might think masking tape being made of paper could be used instead but the adhesives often contain synthetic chemicals.

Here are some compostable, biodegradable and recyclable paper tapes with better glues.

Tesatape

These guys make tape – lots of it and they have a biodegradable option. I have not bought for them and the following was taken from the website. 
Paper ecoLogois an eco-friendly packaging tape. It is not only made of unbleached paper with a high content of recycled fibres. It also features a solvent-free adhesive free from any toxic chemicals. The tape is ideal for sealing shipping cartons. It allows easy tearing by hand, but proves to be sturdy and reliable, as soon as it is applied to a carton, parcel or envelope. Use it as a universal packaging tape for same-material carton sealing and packaging.

  • 60% bio-based packaging tape
  • Strong backing made from unbleached paper
  • Core made from 100% recycled cardboard
  • Contour cuff made from 80% recycled cardboard
  • Solvent-free adhesive
  • Good sealing security
  • Hand-tearable
  • Suitable for use with all tesapack® hand dispensers

 

Brown Kraft Tape labels

I have used this self adhesive packaging tape. It is paper based and has a silicone free backing and is 100% recyclable and it is claimed biodegradable. It is  used by professional graphic and art houses for the mounting of pictures and photographs during framing.It comes on cardboard rolls and you can get it in all different widths.

It works really well and sticks to just about everything. You can use it with gift wrap for presents, (read more here), but I have also sent it through the post on parcels and it has remained secure. Plus it is great for labelling stuff. Sticks to glass for a surprisingly long time – even in damp conditions.

Buy

I can only buy this on line and it sometimes come packed in plastic. Check with the supplier.
Tapes Direct sell it and  I got some from Ebay.

Green Stationary
This online company also sell a biodegradable tape. Here is the blurb
“Eco paper packing tape, 50 metre long rolls of 50mm wide parcel packing tape made from brown 100% recycled paper, with a latex-based adhesive – a totally biodegradable tape to seal your parcels.  Hi tac gives strong adhesion to boxes and cartons. Sold individually, this product has a matt finish.”
I have to bought from them so I don’t know what the onward packaging is like…….

And of course…

Amazon

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.

If you can’t buy local please do check the links above to the suppliers and buy direct from them and support their online businesses.

If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know…

50mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Backing Tape 50m Roll 60 gsm Eco 15 75mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Backing Tape 50m Roll 60 gsm Eco 15 25mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Backing Tape 50m Roll 60 gsm Eco 15
50mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Back…
£3.60
75mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Back…
£5.05
25mm Brown Self Adhesive Picture Frame Back…
£1.99
Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. This is not why we do it.

 

 

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Cigarettes

Far be it from me to promote smoking but the purpose of this blog is to find plastic free alternatives to all legal pastimes and last time I looked smoking still was.

So if you fancy a plastic-free fag, by which, our American friends, I mean a ciggarette, then what are your options? Well you can go to Aberystwith and buy plastic free loose rolling tobaccos

But if that is too far how about growing (and curing) your own. I haven’t tried this – if you do please let me know how you get on! Please note they say “yes totally minimal packaging possible , reuse and recycle all the way only at ” so contact them before you order and say you are plastic free!

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sugru – mending plastic

sugru“What if you could fix, modify or make almost anything? That’s why we invented sugru.”

and I have long been a fan! It is high up there in my plastic2cutplastic category. That is a product with plasticky elements that helps to ultimately reduce your plastic use. Sugru is a  rubbery stuff that can be hand moulded and used in dry or wet, hot and cold situations to mend (or adapt) all manner of things especially plastic products that are getting a bit wobbly. I hardly need stress the advantages but here’s a copy of the press release any way….

“sugru was created by a young product designer on a mission to empower people who want to repair and enhance their products. It moulds like play dough, sticks to almost anything and turns into a strong flexible rubber overnight.Adopted by people in over 150 countries, there are simply thousands of uses for sugru, from modifying kit on expeditions to the North Pole through to homeowners making small improvements to gadgets, appliances and even toys.” You can read more here..

It really does work! I have used it to mend chargers saving them from landfill and me the cost of buying new.

Also to seal a gap in the wooden trim above the kitchen sink. Better looking than shiny silicone seal, easier to use and far less packaging.

As packaging goes, yes they do come in plastic lined foil sachets but they are packed in a cardboard envelope so the packaging is minimal and necessary to keep the product from drying out.

sugru is available at a wide range of retailers including B&Q and Wilko as well as online at sugru.com.

Because it is so darn handy it will come as no surprise that sugru are also supporting Waste Less Live More Week of which I am a proud partner.

Bit more press release…

“Inventor and CEO of sugru, Jane ni Dhulchaointigh is also looking forward to the challenge: ‘being resourceful brings a little bit of creative thinking into everyday life and I love that! We designed sugru to be easy to use in the hope that it might encourage people not only to reduce waste but to feel more confident and creative about fixing and improving things too. The Waste Less Live More challenge is a brilliantly easy way for people to make small changes… and if enough of us do those small things, it could make a big difference.”

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Antiseptics & Disinfectants

This post talks about

This is an area where you want to do your own research and decide what level of protection you need. I do not use antiseptic or disinfectants because I don’t do surgery on my kitchen table or have a low immune system. I keep stuff clean and it seems to work. BUT this is a subject about which I know little. This is my understanding of it. I strongly advise you to do your own research.
Here goes…..

Microbes

The world is full of microbes – micro-organisms – or germs.
“Microbes are single-cell organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle. They are the oldest form of life on earth. Microbe fossils date back more than 3.5 billion years to a time when the Earth was covered with oceans that regularly reached the boiling point, hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Without microbes, we couldn’t eat or breathe.Without us, they’d probably be just fine.”
Which is maybe why we seem determined to wipe them out.  Microbes are everywhere. Inside you outside you swarming all over that keyboard you just touched to type in that fantastically appreciative comment.

They can be divided into four main groups – bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Some are good such as the composting microbes, some are bad such as the pneumonia germs, some  just bumble about doing what ever it is they do in their teeny tiny world.
“By and large, the vast majority of the microbes on this planet are not those that make us sick. We have only scratched the surface to what microbes are out there, and more of them are harmless or even beneficial to us,” Says a scientist.

Kill THEM!!!!!!

But still we want them dead. And here’s how.

Antiseptics & Disinfectants

What are they and now are they different

  • Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances that slow or stop the growth of micro-organisms (germs)
  • They are used on living tissues and cells on external surfaces of the body and help prevent infections. Though they are antiseptics they are often called skin disinfectants,
  • Antibiotics  destroy micro-organisms inside the body, NHS website says…Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing and spreading. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections, such as the common cold, flu, most coughs and sore throats.
  • Disinfectants  destroy microorganisms which infect nonliving objects.

You would use an antiseptic to clean your hands, a disinfectant to clean your breadboard and an antibiotic to kill pneumonia
Wikkipedia tells us  that Some antiseptics are true germicides, capable of destroying microbes (bacteriocidal), while others are bacteriostatic and only prevent or inhibit their growth.
Antibacterials are antiseptics that have the proven ability to act against bacteria.
Antiseptics are not antibiotics.

Using Antiseptics and Disinfectants

This is not meant as advice I am just relating my personal choices. I never use disinfectants or antiseptics. I clean with  soap and bicarbonate ( which is mildly antiseptic but not as good as vinegar).

Most Common Uses

Disinfecting The Home

Food preparation, kitchens and bathrooms are the obvious places for disinfectants. You don’t want bad germs in your food.
I do the obvious things like wash my hands before eating and after I have touched anything dirty. I keep cooked and uncooked food separate. I don’t eat raw meat. I store food in clean conditions. I wash the chopping board if I have used it for meat before I use it for anything else. I have two boards that I use when preparing food. I clean fruit and veg before eating.
For all of this I use soap and hot water. soap and a good scrub.  I don’t think think that anything else is necessary. ,
Also disinfectants kill all microbes, the good the bad the stuff we don’t know what it does yet. Which is unessecary and possibly harmful. There are arguments that living in a sterile atmosphere lowers resistance to infection as the body has not built up any resistance.
Clean not sterile is my mantra.

We need to talk about vinegar…..

Commercial disinfectants are extremely effective. Green alternatives are billed as kinder less harmful. They are certainly less harmful to the microbes because they don’t work as well.

Vinegar & Essentail Oils
Vinegar is the much touted disinfectant of choice for the plastic free.
It is about 5% acetic acid. It’s the acid that kills bacteria and viruses, most probably by denaturing (chemically changing) the proteins and fats that make-up these nasties. It is  good but not as effective as common commercial disinfectants.
Vinegar will not kill  salmonella, “which can transfer from raw meat to chopping boards and onto other foods to give us food poisoning.”
Ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, Borax, “are not registered with EPA and should not be used for disinfecting because they are ineffective against S. aureus.

Undiluted vinegar and ammonia are effective against S.Typhi and E.coli 53, 332, 333.
Neat vinegar also kills flue virus.

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. It can kill salmonella.
Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.
Essentail Oils – there is even less evidence for  efface of essential oils and they take a lot of resources to produce.

Cleaning A Wound

For a long time hydrogen peroxide was used as an antiseptic on open wounds and grazes. Now many recommend against it saying it also kills off healthy tissue and beneficial bacteria. In short using any antiseptics on an open wound is an area of medical controversy.

“In clinical practice, antiseptics are broadly used for both intact skin and wounds, although concerns are raised based upon their effect on human cells and wound healing. Opinions are conflicting. Some authors strongly disapprove the use of antiseptics in open wounds.[6-8] On the other hand, others believe antiseptics have a role in wound care, and their use may favor wound healing clinically.[9,10]

Web MD claim that  cool running water “is the best treatments for common wounds, and that you should rinse the wound for at least five minutes to remove it of debris, dirt, or anything else that may be in there. The water will clean the wound out well enough for your body to take over without harming the still living tissue around the wound.

I don’t get many wounds and when I do, I don’t use antiseptics. Most cuts and scrapes seems to clear up with out infection – even when travelling in some of the dirtier places. Again, not a recommendation just an observation.

Skin Disinfectants ( Antiseptics)

Removing bacteria from the skin is done to prevent the spread of disease. The area of skin you need to keep cleanest is your hand which carry microbes from place to place  by touch.

Soap

The easiest way to disinfect the skin is to wash with soap and water. But don’t bother with anti bacterial soaps. “Washing your hands is extremely important for preventing the spread of infectious illness, especially at critical points like after using the toilet, changing the baby, or handling raw foods. But consumers can’t assume that antibacterial soaps are better for this than other soaps.”

Soap doesn’t kill bacteria but removes it .

“harmless and harmful microbes stick to the oil your hands naturally produce, and, absent removal, willingly hitch a ride until they reach their ultimate destination (inside of you or somebody else) where they can in some cases wreak havoc…. [washing hands]… for at least 20 or more seconds at a time, is a highly effective way of removing bacteria despite the fact that the bacteria doesn’t die, but is simply flushed away when you rinse (or wiped off on a towel).”

Alchohol

If you have no soap and water or that is not appropriate you can try alcohol. Both ethanol or ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol can be used as antisceptics and have similar effects. However ethanol or ethyl alcohol is the stuff that makes you drunk isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol (also known as rubbing alchohol or surgical spirit) is made from propene derived from fossil fuels and water. You can read more about it here

If you want a petroleum free product use ethyl alcohol.

ethyl alcohol.

Can be used as a skin disinfectant. It effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi, and kills most bacteria, fungi, and many viruses on the hands and skin.

It is commonly used as skin antiseptics, often in the form of wipes Wise geek

It is

  • effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi,
  • kills most bacteria, fungi, and many viruses on the hands and skin
  • is commonly used as skin antiseptics, often in the form of wipes or gels, and for disinfecting surfaces
  • Its main  main effect on microorganisms seems to be to coagulate essential proteins, rendering them ineffective, and causing cell death or inhibiting reproduction.
  • It may also have a dehydrating effect and may interfere with the functioning of cell membranes. Wise geek

Mouth  & Mouthwashes

Now this I do use. I have a troublesome wisdom tooth that occasionally flares up. I can keep it at bay with a rigorous tooth cleaning regime. When it is bad I use a salt mouthwash. And I have used hydrogen peroxide which seems to work.

Sodium chloride (salt) solution can be used  as a mildly antiseptic mouthwash.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a mouth gargle The Merck Manuals recommended diluting the 3% hydrogen peroxide 50 percent with water, but suggest it as a rinse and part of a treatment for trench mouth, for example.  The FDA has approved 3% solutions of hydrogen peroxide for use as a mouthwash.  Most sources said to use it only for a short time, however, such as part of a treatment of a mouth infection.  A report from Well-Connected (written or edited by physicians at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital) recommended against extended use, saying that overuse may actually damage cells and soften tooth surfaces. We were not able to find any authoritative information about hydrogen peroxide and canker sores.

Hydrogen peroxide may be amongst the better options.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. It can kill salmonella.

Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.

You can use of hydrogen peroxide is to bleach hair. The concentrations are between 3% and 6%.

It can be used to clean blood stains out of clothes and brighten colours but do be careful it doesnt actually leave bleach marks.

 

 

 

 

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Bicarbonate Of Soda

This one product can replace hundreds of plastic bottles on your shelves. It does biodegrade. However there are issues about how it is obtained. I say it is a good product but use in moderation. Locally made soap  is a greener cleaning option to my mind.

Buy

Bicarb is available from
Wing Yip Chinese Super Store in Manchester in bulk in paper bags
Wilco’s in a cardboard box
Dri Pac in cardboard boxes with plastic liners.
You can also get some great deals on ebay but it does come plastic wrapped. However when you think how much you can do with it, and how many plastic bottles it, replaces you might consider it a worthwhile trade off!

What Is Bicarbonate Of Soda (Baking Soda)

Chemical formula NaHCO3.
Each molecule of sodium bicarbonate contains one sodium atom (Na), one hydrogen atom (H), and a carbonate ion (one carbon atom bonded to three oxygen atoms).
It is biodegradable
Bicarb is formed naturally as nahcolite  but most of the stuff sold is man made.
In 1846, John Dwight and his brother-in-law, Dr Austin Church, invented bicarbonate of soda. It was made from carbon dioxide and treated soda ash. 
There is more on soda ash here.
Most Bicarbonate of Soda is imported.
It is alkaline which is why it is so good at cleaning up grease and fats.

Nahcolite

It can  mined directly from the ground  as Nahcolite.  This is a soft, colourless or white carbonate mineral with the composition of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). It may  also be called thermokalite.

Manufactured

Most Bicarbonate of soda is produced  by either of these heavily industrialized processes

The Solvay Process  Uses limestone, salt and ammonia to transform salt (sodium chloride). 

Mining –  Trona ore  is mined, then heated until it turns into soda ash also known as washing soda. Bicarbonate of soda is obtained along the way. Read more.

Baking Soda V Washing Soda

Baking Soda’s PH is not as alkaline as washing soda, so it doesn’t cause skin irritation and you don’t need gloves to handle them. It is not as harsh as washing soda but neither is it as effective a cleaner. It is also half as effective at softening water.

You can turn bicarb back into washing soda by baking it so that breaks back down into water steam, carbon dioxide and washing soda. I have never done this but by all acounts need to cook your bicarb in the oven for half an hour at 400 F (or 200 C). You can compare and contrast them here.

Use It For

Cleaning the house
Deoderant
Toothpowder
Washing your hair

Baking soda, is also used to make cookies, cakes, biscuits, and similar pastries “rise” during baking. In the presence of an acid, it easily decomposes into carbon dioxide and a sodium salt of that acid, and the trapped bubbles provide the textures we enjoy in those foods. Note that “baking powder” is a simple mixture of baking soda and a dry acid such as cream of tartar, often with a starch added to provide bulk.

Other resources

washing soda 

Information on PH balances and other cleaning products can be found here.

Use’s

Baking soda, is used to make cookies, cakes, biscuits, and similar pastries “rise” during baking. In the presence of an acid, it easily decomposes into carbon dioxide and a sodium salt of that acid, and the trapped bubbles provide the textures we enjoy in those foods. Note that “baking powder” is a simple mixture of baking soda and a dry acid such as cream of tartar, often with a starch added to provide bulk.

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Chop Sticks Folding

The curse of the plastic chopstick wrapper means that eating plastic-free South East Asian style  can be hard work. So too can carrying full size chopsticks – they are too long and pointy for comfort. So it’s a big cheer for the clever Chinese for these push and click “folding” chopsticks.

Open them up slide them together and they are full size sticks. Pull them apart and seal them in the handy carrying pouch and they are easily transportable little things of beauty. Made of stainless steel and wood they look and feel good.

They are also  great for taking to places closer to home where they give you those disposable chopsticks.

We got ours in Beijing but you can of course get them on Amazon.

Lifeventure Knife, Fork, Spoon Folding Cutlery Set Travel Stainless Steel Foldable Pocket Chopsticks Silver Tone Pair
Lifeventure Knife, Fork, Spoon Folding Cutl… Travel Stainless Steel Foldable Pocket Chop…

 

Being committed to local shopping I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.

If you can’t buy local, please do check the links in the posts.  They link direct  to the suppliers.  Do consider buying from them and support their online businesses.

If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know…

Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However these links are for 3rd party sellers, we have always found the Amazon service to be good and their packaging usually compostable. In the absence of anything else we feel we can recommend them.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. That’s not why we do it.

More

Also useful is folding cutlery and tiffin tins. Here’s the rest of our plastic free travel kit

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Music & C.Ds

I have just finished down loading all my CDs on to an external hard drive. From now on I will only download music. Or listen to the radio.

I gave all my old C.D.s away. But if I could crochet I could have made mandalas. You can find a whole range of C.D. related crafts up on my Pinterest page.

If I was an artist I could have done this.

French artist Elise Morin and architect Clémence Eliard just unveiled a shimmering art installation made from 65,000 discarded CDs at the Halle d’Aubervilliers of Paris’s Centquatre.

Read more: WasteLandscape: 65,000 Discarded CDs Form a Sea Of Metallic Dunes in Paris | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World

 


 

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Cups BYO

Any one lucky enough to see the photos of Vladimir Putin bare-chested in camo  will have some idea just how butch the Russians can be. A fact reinforced by the number of camping shops in Moscow selling rugged man’s stuff. And they don’t get much more rugged than this tin cup, double wall construction and complete with sturdy clip to attach it to your rucksack. So I got one.

I take a reusable cup travelling with me because  I am highly dependant on take out. I don’t want to use plastic cups and so-called paper cups are plastic lined so I take my own cup and use that instead.

I have to say, as reusable cups go, this one is as good as Vlad on horseback – and you can’t get better than that!

But reusable cups are not just for travellers.

A report conducted jointly by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation and Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000.[5] In 2006, Starbucks reported that this figure had grown to 2.3 billion cups for use at their stores.[6]

And just recently the Guardian reported that “A conservative estimate puts the number of paper cups handed out by coffee shops in the UK at 3bn, more than 8m a day with only  one in 400 is being recycled.

You can read more about disposable cups here

Good enough reasons to take your own reusable cup to the coffee shop.

Buy

I don’t know if you can buy such a good cup in the effeminate, decadent West but you will find something in outdoor shops that might do. Most do a good range of camping cups.

More Options

I have not used these myself  so I cannot say how well they perform or what the onward packaging is like. You will have to check with the suppliers. Any one who has tried them, can review them or can recommend some other great product please do  leave a comment.  Together we can make changes.

Some of the products featured may come plastic packed or even be made of plastic. They are included because if a product reduces the consumption of plastic disposables or packaging waste then, we feel,  there is a strong justification for using it. You read more about using plastic to cut plastic here.

Reusable silicon cups with lid

They wont break in your bag and will save the planet – result. You can buy them from Onya – the people who do the mesh produce bags.

Heres some blurb from them

Did you know you can take your own reusable coffee cup to most coffee shops?  They will fill it instead of the usual disposable one and some of them even offer you a discount! red_lge

Features:

• Foodgrade silicone cup/lid

• Eco friendly and reusable

• Dishwasher safe

• Withstands up to 200ºC heat

• Cool to the touch

• byocup and lids are not available separately.

The byocup silicone story

We are conscious of the fact that manufacturing reusable cups also   has an environmental impact, so we have put a process in place to    recycle the cup responsibly.

At the end of its life as a byocup, please return it to us and we   will forward it to a silicone recycler in India who will turn it into   charity bracelets or key rings.

Ceramic Cup

If you don’t like the sound of that or prefer something ceramic try the I am not a paper cup – a pottery cup with reusable silicon lid.

I know it looks like a polystyrene version but thats the joke. It’s also double wall construction so it will keep your drink hot and your hands cool. Shame about the plastic packaging! You can buy them here.

notpapercup-pr

Catalogue

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source. Coffee Evolution were doing take away ceramic cups for instance.

If you can’t buy local, please do check the links above. They look direct  to the suppliers.  Do consider buying from them and support their online businesses.

If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know…

 

Yellowstone 300Ml Stainless Steel Mug Creative Tops Katie Alice Cottage Flower Doubled Walled Porcelain Travel Mug with Silcone Lid Glass Mason Jars
Yellowstone 300Ml Stainless Steel Mug
£3.24
Creative Tops Katie Alice Cottage Flower Do…
£9.05
Glass Mason Jars
Aladdin 31843 Double-Walled Drinking Cup with Handle 0.47 Litres Helikon Swedish Army Folding Cup Camping Hiking Olive Primeshop-30ml Stainless Steel Tumblers Glasses Drinking Cups for Camping Garden BBQ
Aladdin 31843 Double-Walled Drinking Cup wi…
£16.88
Helikon Swedish Army Folding Cup Camping Hi…
£3.95
Primeshop-30ml Stainless Steel Tumblers Gla…
Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. That’s not why we do it.