eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

I wish I’d know this before about recycling…

Back before lockdown, when I was still working in an office on a regular basis, I was really pleased to discover one day that a crisp packet recycling collection box had appeared in the office kitchen (that’s chip packet to those who speak American English!). I started happily collecting packets from home and bringing them in to recycle, happy that it was one less thing going to landfill. A mere few weeks or so later, the pandemic hit and with that my crisp packet recycling dream was over.

Every time I throw something in the general waste, I experience a niggling guilt that I shouldn’t be doing it, despite recycling everything my local authority will take (sadly they don’t een collect food waste in my area, but that’s a conversation for another day!). I’m doing what I can to minimise waste by refilling containers at my local zero waste store, choosing lower-packaging options where possibe ans buying almost only loose produce, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. My curiosity was therefore peaked when I got my hands on a hand soap refill package that read in bright green ‘NEW: recycle me with Terracycle’.

Terracycle, that name rang a bell: it was the company we’d been sending our crisp packets to from the office all those months ago! But how did this service work and how could I make use of it now the office collection was no longer an option? I headed to the Terracycle website to look for answers and was blown away by what I found…

Terracycle runs a huge number of programmes to recycle all sorts of items that won’t be recycled by local councils or other mainstream waste management facilities. Crisp packets and soap packaging aside, there are also programme for cheese wrappers, snack & confectionary packaging, toothbrushes & dental care packaging, games & toys, disinfectant wipes and Marigold gloves… the list goes on! Businesses can also purchase Zero Waste Boxes to recycle packing from items such as arts supplies, baby gear, beauty products, casste & VHS tapes, used gum (!)… again, the list goes on, and importantly in the current era, include disposable PPE items.

The public recycling schemes are free to use, and work on a clever community-based model. Individuals set up drop-off locations by finding a public place to place the collection box, getting permission to do so and signing up with Terracycle do getthings going. Terracycle provide all the gear and the individual ships the waste to Terracycle to do their thing once a suitable quantity has been collected. One everyone has a collection point within a 5-mile radius the scheme is full; otherwise you can set up your own scheme and get collecting. What’s more, partners who have set up a collection earn rewards for waste they return, which can be redeemed as donations to a charity of their choice. Genius!

I’m excited to find that there are collection points nearby for some of my more frequently used items, such as crisp packets, dental care and laundry packaging. Even more so that there could be an opportunity for me to set up a new collection point for other items that aren’t yet accounted for in my local area! I’m going to get the lowdown on what it entails to set up a scheme, but it feels like it could bethe perfect way to do a little bit of good in my community without taking on too much burden. Win-win!

Oh, and Terracycle is operating in over 20 countries worldwide, so it’s not only people in the UK who can benefit! Check out their website to find out more about the programmes, locate your nearby collection points, purchase Zero Waste boxes or set up a scheme. Happy Terracycling!

eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

Introducing my favourite eco-friendly household items

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, I find household items are one of the most challenging things. So many of the basic things we use in daily life – like toiletries and cleaning products – generate a lot of plastic waste and other environmental issues. From growing natural sponges to recyclable toothpaste tubes, slowly I’m discovering an array of products that are helping me overcome those problems. I’d like to share a few here and hope you’ll share some back!

Eco-friendly toothpaste

I have to admit, I was devastated a few years ago when I found out that my favourite toothpaste – the kind that has ‘micro-crystals’ in it to get your teeth squeaky-clean – was full of plastic. Exactly the thing I loved about it was tiny bits of plastic that ended up in the sea causing all sorts of harm to the animals who unwittingly ingested it. Disappointedly and dutifully, I immediately stopped using this type of toothpaste, but have continued to be bothered by the non-recyclable packaging that toothpaste inevitably comes in.

That is, until yesterday. I’ve recently been pleased to see charcoal toothpaste becoming fashionable – yes, it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but at least it’s more natural than plastic – and was hunting for the best-value version I could find, when I spotted Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste in fully recyclable packaging! I was embittered to find it was a good deal more expensive than other basic toothpastes (aside from all the fashionable whitening varieties and so on), but my moral compass told me I had no choice but to buy it now I knew it was on offer. i do feel happier knowing I’m now empowered to make such a choice, and have also been enjoying Colgate’s bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes. Well done, Colgate!

New recyclable packaging from Colgate

Coconut scrubbers

Coconut scrubbers & scourers seem to have made a mini-explosion in the cleaning products market, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, I’ve been using an EcoCoconut scourer for the first time, and it’s excellent. They’re naturally antibacterial, which is an obvious plus for washing your dishes, and are also highly effective at scrubbing whilst also being non-abrasive, so they won’t ruin your pans. My dishes are clean and I’m no longer sending endless little bits of micro-plastic down the drain from a traditional scourer: it’s win-win!

Lush shampoo bars

When I talk about shampoo bars, friend often instantly retort that ‘they’re no good; they make my hair greasy’. Now, I’ve personally never used any shampoo bar other than Lush – I’ve never needed to because they’re so good – but have also heard friends say Lush is the only shampoo bar that doesn’t make their hair greasy. In other words, if you think you don’t get along with shampoo bars but haven’t tried the Lush ones, do it. They are, in short, amazing.

Not only are there obvious benefits of the plastic-free nature of this solution, but I find this stuff is just so good for my hair. I don’t need to wash it as often as I used to, and my bar of choice – Honey I Washed My Hair – is so softening I don’t even need conditioner. What’s more, their solid nature makes them easy to travel with and you can buy a handy tin or cork holder to transport them in. Brilliant!

Natural sponges

This could be a bit of a wildcard, but this year I’m attempting to grow my own sponges! We were offered a luffa plant (or loofah – same thing different spelling!) and jumped at the chance. This is the plant that the well-known back-scrubbing device luffa comes from. It’s a vine plant that produces fruit of a cucumber-type shape which, once dried out, can be used for various purposes such as slicing to use as sponges or scourers. I’ve read they can be a bit tricky to grow so will be interested to see how it pans out. I’m really excited to be giving it a go as it combines my newfound love of self-sufficiency through gardening with my passion to reduce waste from packaging. Watch this space!

Over to you…

What are your favourite eco-friendly household items? I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the Comments and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with my antics. Until next time!

Plastic Pollution

A Top Tip for Tea-Drinking Types

I was astounded when I discovered, maybe a couple of years ago now, that teabags contain plastic. Once I knew, it seemed obvious – of course they’d disintegrate if they were just paper – but I was shocked at the time. I was also somewhat disturbed by this fact, given the amount of tea that I drink (I am English after all) and how many people throw teabags in their food waste bins. I was immediately on a mission to eradicate teabags from my life.

Loose tea is an obvious answer, and indeed I enjoy the process of selecting different varieties, making and drinking the tea. But sometimes loose-leaf just isn’t practical, you don’t have the time or, if you’re anything like me, you just fancy the type of brew that only comes from an English Breakfast tea bag. Not only is this problematic because of the plastic, but also because most teabags are bleached, which isn’t good for the body either. There must be a better way…

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Clipper Tea bags are not only unbleached but plastic-free too. What’s more, their Everyday variety is about the tastiest I’ve ever come across – amazing! Oh, and of course it’s Fairtrade too…

Even more happily, it turns out Clipper originated right here in my home county of Dorset. I feel rather proud of that! On writing this post, I worried that it would only be relevant for people living in the UK, but no: Clipper has branched out internationally to over 50 countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. So wherever you are, I hope you find yourself able to sample this wonderful English tea, guilt-free.

I invite you to make a brew, sit back, relax and browse the rest of my site. Aaah.

Gardening

Grow-your-own: my story, how to get started and busting myths!

Over the last couple of years, my partner Jason and I have forayed into growing our own veg, which is a rather enjoyable and rewarding pastime as well as having obvious benefits both for our health and the planet. Here I share some insights and tips from our experiences so far, whilst busting a few myths that may be stopping you from getting started with growing your own!

Do you ever despair over the limited choice of plastic-free produce in the supermarket, or at the price you pay for good quality veg? These issues leave me feeling wracked with guilt every time I go shopping, either for buying packaged items, stuff from halfway across the world or denting my bank balance more heavily than I’d have liked. Here in the UK we seem to be particularly bad for plastic packaging in our produce isles – though it’s getting better – and I’d love to hear what it’s like in your part of the world if you live elsewhere.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the summer, when these issues won’t trouble me so much as we’ll be picking lots of fresh produce straight from our own crops!

We’re not gardening experts by any stretch, but that’s the beauty of it in some ways – you don’t have to be particularly skilled in order to make stuff grow – as long as you choose things that are relatively easy, give them enough space and provide the little bit of TLC they need (which for the hardiest of plants isn’t much!).

Last year I let Jason lead on the gardening, feeling I couldn’t contribute much because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year it’s different, not because I’ve suddenly become more knowledgeable but because I’ve taken the plunge and got stuck in. Here’s a run-down of what we’ve done, with some top tips and myth-busting thrown in along the way:

Top Tip 1: Grow-kits

Inspired by a colleague who had done the same, I bought some grow-kits from a local shop. Though such a simple thing, these nifty little packs that contained everything I needed gave me the confidence to crack on and get planting.

Where to buy: here in the UK, Wilko offers a range of grow-kits; this is where I got my stash.

I was impressed with the grow-pots, which are essentially yogurt pots that form a mini-greenhouse with their clear plastic lids. I’m continuing to use these as plant pots, and now I know how it works I’m saving yogurt pots to use for germination in future and minimise waste!

Myth: you need a greenhouse to be able to grow tomato plants

Bust: you don’t! Our tomato plants are coming on just fine, helped along by their starting life inside a yogurt pot (along with the glorious weather we’ve been getting of course!). Admittedly we don’t know how many will continue to survive, but we’ve got about 30 decent-looking baby plants that have survived this far without a greenhouse. Amazing!

We’ve also got radishes and Turkish Turban squash plants doing well, both from the 6-veg grow-kit you see in the picture. They are both super low maintenance and I can’t wait to see how they turn out later in the year!

Of course, this means we have a LOT of little plants right now. You might be picturing us in an idyllic garden with loads of space for them to live, but this isn’t the case! Our apartment is an annexe of a big house and we don’t have access to the garden. We only have concrete outdoor space, so we’re limited to growing in pots and planters.

Myth: you need lots of space and a proper garden in order to grow vegetables.

Bust: not necessarily; it all depends on what you choose to grow. Some plants are actually well-suited to being grown in limited space, with tomatoes being a prime example. Given too much space, they’ll spread outwards rather than upwards, so something just-big-enough like pots of baskets are perfect for optimal growth. For vegetables that like to grow in rows, such as beets, we’re on the lookout for some long but compact trough-like planters.

Top tip 2: smart storage

If you’ve got limited space, look for clever ways to store your plants. Whilst we’ve got lots of baby tomatoes, the pots are all stacked on a makeshift stand, which minimises surface area and makes them easy to move around (we like to get them maximum sun exposure during the day and pop them just inside the front door overnight to keep them warm).

Top tip 3: plant swap

As the plants get stronger and we’re confident in their survival, we’ll be able to donate some to friends and family. This is a lovely thing about growing veg: it’s rather sociable and it feels good to share. We’ve already done a swap of a squash plant for a couple of courgettes (or zucchini if you speak American English!) and it feels exciting to add a new vegetable to our collection! It’s also a good way to not end up with a surplus of something.

(Note: any plant swapping we do at the moment is done whilst maintaining appropriate distancing and as part of our daily outdoor exercise.)

Top tip 4: seed harvest

You can be even more resourceful by harvesting the seeds from shop-bought veggies and using these for planting. You’ll get loads of seeds this way so you can share them with friends too! Here are the 3 simple steps I followed to prep my butternut squash seeds for the ground:

  1. Scoop the seeds and pulp from the middle of the squash and place in a jug with enough water for the seeds to float to the top. Over the course of 2-4 days, the mixture starts to ferment, killing viruses and allowing the good seeds to sink to the bottom.
  2. Get rid of the pulp and any seeds that continue to float, then dry the remaining seeds thoroughly. I did this by laying them out on a paper towel on a plate and putting them in the sun for a few hours.
  3. Once you’re sure the seeds are completely dried out, pop them in an envelope (it’s a good idea to label with what they are and when from). Put them in the freezer for a couple of days to kill off any last bad stuff, then they’re ready to go!

I’m looking forward to getting some of these planted and am keen to learn more about prepping seeds from other veg for planting. Watch this space!

Myth: I can’t grow anything as all the stores have sold out of seeds.

Bust: with a bit of leg-work, you can plant the seeds from shop-bought vegetables!

So there you have it: a whistle-stop tour of my grow-your-own journey so far this year. If you’re keen to start growing, I hope this has provided the inspiration you need to get started. If I can do it, anyone can! Please use the comments box to share your own growing stories and tips. I’ll look forward to hearing from you and sharing more of my experiences as the season progresses!

Uncategorized

An Introduction…

Welcome to Lauren’s Cloud!

I’m on a mission to live healthily, optimise my wellbeing and look after others and the planet at the same time. I hope you’ll join me on this fascinating journey.

I’ve been passionate about healthy living for many years, and in recent times my interest has deepened in adopting a lifestyle that is good not only for me but for the world around me too. How can I look after myself whilst also caring for others, for the environment, for society? I feel privileged to have been born into a life where I have a degree of freedom to even make choices about my lifestyle; to live in a developed country that is abundant with food options, career choices, consumer products and leisure pursuits. Relatively speaking, I can do what I want in life, and I think in some ways this comes as both a blessing and a curse.

As I’ve begun to explore more sustainable and ethical choices to align with healthy ones, one of the things that has been most striking is that it isn’t easy. Doing the ‘right’ thing can be really challenging. I find myself, for example, visiting 3 stores on some ocassions to do my grocery shopping, simply to get the balance between value, personal needs and ethical choices. I am such an advocate of active and sustainable travel that a single car trip leaves me feeling wracked with guilt. Sometimes I simply don’t know what choices or products are available that meet my combined personal and ethical goals. But I’m adjusting and learning and growing and building this healhy, green lifestyle, one baby step at a time.

I’m in the fairly early stages of this journey myself, and am aware that some people are miles ahead of me, whilst others will be taking the very first steps or simply contemplating making some changes in life. Either way, I want to connect with others who share my vision for a world in which we live healthily, happily and harmoniously with mother nature. I intend to share stories of my endeavours, tips and recommendations that come out of these, and invite you to do the same along the way so we can learn and grow together.

Whilst I hope you’ll find some of what I share useful – and I do intend to do my research and offer genuinely meaningful insights! – I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on any of this stuff. You won’t find me posting super-professional, uber-styled photos or bringing you the slickest, smartest content you’ve ever seen. What you will get is honesty, integrity and a genuine passion for living well in every sense of the word, which I hope you’ll share.

So without further ado, let’s take the next step to saving ourselves, and the planet, together.

Grow your own: a great way to live well! Me in April 2020 tending to my tomato seedlings