“It’s not MY fault!” Setting an eco-example.

Over lockdown my girls have been on a nature documentary kick. It started with Gordon Buchanan and his “…, family & me” series covering arctic wolves, polar bears, black bears, brown bears and cheetahs. Then we moved on to David Attenborough, first his Perfect Planet series then The Blue Planet and now Blue Planet II. As part of Blue Planet II, they include some segments explaining how human actions have impacted the marine and coastal environment. My older daughter (aged 11) remarked, “ok, this is the bit where they say it’s all our fault.” The younger one (aged 7) full of indignation, retorted, “It’s not MY fault!”. She’s right. It is the fault of those of us who have lived longer than a mere 7 years.

Coincidentally, two of my friends have recently expressed a desire to live more plastic-free lives, and I’ve had a few conversations with people about reusable sanitary products. Perhaps as a consequence of lockdown and people re-evaluating their lives, perhaps we have just reached a critical mass of public opinion and that which used to be the domain of hippies and fringe groups is now mainstream, but either way it can only be a good thing that we are taking this more seriously.

I had a chat with my girls about what we do already, and how we could do more. (I’ll post some links to sites at the end)

They were both clad in reusable cloth nappies. I am a huge advocate for these. Not only do they reduce landfill, they don’t have any chemicals on baby’s bottom and they look super cute.

I also used cloth wipes instead of disposable ones, and still have a hands & faces set (bum set was separate!) handy for snacks, mealtimes or any other grubby occasion.

I’ve been using reusable sanitary products for years now, a mooncup and cloth pads. Again, I can’t recommend these highly enough, waste-saving and much nicer against the skin. The mooncup does take a bit of getting used to, but it is definitely worth persisting. While browsing for starter kits in preparation for my older daughter I came across Hey Girls, a Scottish company that donates 1 product for every 1 you buy, I bought some stuff for my daughter and thought I’d give their period pants a try as well, I must say I was impressed and might buy a few more.

Other health-wise we buy toilet paper and tissues from Who Gives a Crap, who make it out of sustainable materials, plastic-free wrapping and use profits to built toilets in developing countries. Win win win. For a fourth win, I have a referral code that gets us both £5 off, hit me up if you want in on the winning. We recently made the switch to bamboo toothbrushes which I was a bit unsure about, but they’ve been absolutely fine and the kids love them.

We use soap bars and I use a shampoo bar, although I’ve yet to switch the girls, somehow we had several bottles of kids shampoo I want to use up first. I still use bottled “bubble bath” and haven’t really looked at alternatives there yet, it’s a bit complicated by the fact that 2 of the 3 of us have eczema so some of what we use is prescription, some is just tried and tested and doesn’t irritate our skin so we’re reluctant to experiment too much. It’s probably next on my list to investigate, though. I tried FitPit deodorant and just didn’t get on with it, so I’m afraid I gave up, not having limitless funds to try out relatively pricey products that don’t work. However, a friend posted on Facebook today asking for some plastic-free toiletries and got some good recommendations so I will maybe hitchhike on those and try again.

One of my favourite things is our fruit & veg boxes. We are lucky and have 2 local farms that offer both pre-made and self-selection produce for collection or delivery, locally grown where possible and largely plastic-free.

We also get our milk delivered in glass bottles which get returned to be used again, saving many plastic bottles. I have a code for these guys too if you are local to the Glasgow area – get in touch!

Elsewhere in the kitchen, I have some reusable cloths instead of disposable kitchen paper, we have reusable sandwich wrappers for picnics or packed lunches and I save leftover food in wee tubs rather than using cling film. I recently got a dishwasher and just started using Smol plastic-free dishwasher tablets, which they post to you regularly. They also do laundry tabs and other stuff but I’ve not tried any of these yet. There are people who insist that you can clean your whole house with only white vinegar and baking soda, I haven’t put that to the test yet, and the cupboard under my sink is very much full of chemical-ridden plastic bottles. Another area I’d like to address, but just haven’t got round to it yet…

For home energy, I am with Bulb, which promises 100% green energy and has a clear, simple price plan and payment structure. Guess what – they have a referral code too, which get us both £50 off our bills, so you really should do that, for my sake, for your sake, for the planet’s sake, for goodness sake!

As individuals, we can undoubtedly make a difference, but we should bear in mind that we can only do so much. All of our individual personal circumstances will impact our abilities to make significant changes – health, wealth, location and available time all make it more or less easy to make that effort. It has been easy for me to avoid excessive air travel, because I haven’t had the means to afford foreign holidays. Many argue that a vegan diet is the best action one can take for the planet, but I am allergic to all nuts and soya (and eggs) so veganism and even vegetarianism would leave me with a particularly restricted diet. I chose to put my efforts elsewhere. It is easy for me to use a fruit & veg box service because I have two locally. Comparing eco-credentials can quickly slip into judgement and one-upmanship. We should be mindful that everyone is working within different parameters of financial, physical and social factors and applaud anyone who makes any kind of effort, no matter how small. In fact during these pandemic times, making even a small change can feel even more significant, as we wrest back some control over our lives, our connections to others and the world we all live in.

We should also remember the role that governments and corporations play in pollution and CO2 emissions. Buy wisely, consider where your investments go – check where your pension funds are held and vote for those who will hold states and companies responsible.

My parents and grandparents live(d) a much more ecologically sound life than we do, without a 2nd thought and without any handwringing or endless internet searches for the best coconut scourer. Growing their own vegetables, composting, buying quality and taking care of things so they last, repairing things rather than replacing. It needn’t be complicated.

So what are your top tips for living an eco-friendly life? Share and spread the love.

Some links to companies that I’ve used:

Tots Bots cloth nappies: https://www.totsbots.com/

Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes & more: https://www.cheekywipes.com/

Mooncup: https://www.mooncup.co.uk/

Hey Girls sanitary products: https://www.heygirls.co.uk/

Who Gives A Crap toilet paper & more: https://uk.whogivesacrap.org – ASK ME FOR A CODE!

Roots of Linwood Fruit & Veg boxes: https://www.linwoodtrust.org.uk/store/category/5_fruitveg-shop/

Barnhill Boxes Fruit & Veg: https://barnhillboxes.com/

McQueen’s Dairies – milk & more: https://www.mcqueensdairies.co.uk/ – ASK ME FOR A CODE!

Smol cleaning products: https://smolproducts.com/

Bulb home energy: https://bulb.co.uk/ – WHAT, ANOTHER CODE? YES! £50 EACH NO LESS, YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT!! GET IN TOUCH!

Anything But Plastic – shop with good range of products, self-explanatory: https://www.anythingbutplastic.co.uk/shop