In the kitchen – another text-heavy post

Recently, I covered changes I have made and plan to make in my bathroom.

Today, it’s the kitchen’s turn. I’m not going to cover grocery purchases (having touched upon that here) but I will make mentionof foraging and home-grown produce.

So far, here are the changes I’ve managed to make:
– We’ve reduced the amount of washing-up liquid we use by putting it in a handpump by the sink, instead of leaving it in its bottle.
– I’ve knitted cotton dish-cloths to avoid disposable ones. These can be bleached and washed at 90C should I feel that the regular wash isn’t getting them clean enough.
– We use a recycled dish-brush with exchangable heads (not perfect, but more on that later).
– I’ve replaced kitchen roll/paper napkins with washable ones. These are made from old tea-towels.
– I clean with citrus vinegar and knitted cloths.
– Rather than buy specific storage tubs, I’ve been reusing jars and plastic tubs from the food we’ve been unable to buy package free.
– We dry many of our own herbs/teas.
– We forage as many mushrooms as we can get our mits on!
– We use dishwasher powder instead of tablets – this is available package-free from the local refillery and as we’re in a soft-water area, we can get away with using far less than the recommended amount.
– We use washing powder from a cardboard box (at the moment it’s ASDA’s own brand non-bio) but in future I’ll be trying this from the local refillery.
– We use loose-leaf tea and coffee-beans, rather than bags and pods.
– We have a small one-litre kettle so that we seldom boil too much water.

Once again, pretty good so far. But where could we improve?

To begin with, there’s the scrubbing brush – still plastic, though recycled plastic, and with heads that switch out.

We had tried the lovely wooden brushes which everyone on Pinterest seems to have, but just couldn’t get on with them. Both Husband and I felt like we were bending the neck every time we applied any pressure, but for those of you who are slightly less heavy-handed, they make a really lovely plastic-free alternative.

With both brushes, we tried to extend the lives of the heads by putting them through the dishwasher on the top shelf – a successful endeavour in both cases, though we did get better results with the plastic brush.

So what else still happens in our kitchen which shouldn’t?

We do still boil too much water, despite the mini kettle. I went through a phase of keeping a large Thermos on the side to put surplus boiled water in, but I forgot to use it afterwards. Also, during the winter months, we use a log-burner to heat the living-room and if I actually pulled myself together and bought a hob-top kettle, I could very easily just plop the kettle on the stove and make a cuppa without using electricity at all.

I still use baking paper – especially when making bread in the slow cooker. I’ve tried all sorts of other things to stop the dough from sticking but nothing else has worked. That said, I do reuse the sheets until they grow brittle so it’s still not a single-use item for me. I’d like to invest in some proper reusable ones, but at the moment, it’s not a top priority.

I’ll talk about the raised vegetable beds which husband has made in another post, but for now, let me simply say that they need filling with earth. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to find a container to put compostable matter in. I do already use a compost bin (when I remember) but to be honest, most of our food-waste goes in the kitchen-caddy to be removed by the local council. Which is fine – don’t get me wrong – but it seems ludicrous sending things away to rot when I need rotted matter here… And again, I know I can’t fill all four beds with kitchen waste (though I reckon I could fill one with spent tea-leafs alone…) but coupled with some manure from the farm at the top of the hill and the bits of tree we need to take down, I imagine we can vastly reduce the amount of soil we need to bring in.

This brings me neatly on to what I feel is the biggest point of waste in my kitchen – the spent tea and coffee. Husband grinds his own coffee beans and uses a filter, which is great, and I’ve been a leaf-tea person since I started drinking tea so at least there’s no plastic there, but there are a lot of leavings. I think I’ve figured out a way to turn some of the coffee grounds into soap as a sort of exfoliator, but the tea has me stumped. I know it will all rot down, but I’m very keen to explore any alternatives – I seem to get through so much daily.

I’ve mentioned my ‘Adventure Kit’ in other posts but I feel it’s worth popping in here too, as reusable cutlery and enamel plates are so incredibly useful. The plates in particular are the stars of my kitchen – they can go straight from freezer to oven (and frequently do when I freeze a crumble), they’re dishwasher safe and are perfect for camping, eating picnics and basically everything.

Is there anything I’ve failed to mention here? Is there something I’ve missed? I’d love to hear other ways I can make a difference in my kitchen.

 

 

 

The first gifts…

In the spirit of #NothingNewNovember, I thought I’d share some of the second hand gifts I’m planning to give in December as these are the only things I plan to buy throughout this month.

To start with, I’ve bought some second hand earrings.

Image

I bought these five pairs for £5.50 from my local charity shop. Here they are, drying after a bath in cold-water sterilising fluid. I chose to clean them in the cold-water solution because I didn’t know whether the beads were glass or not, and if they were, whether they would be able to tolerate boiling water without cracking.

My plan is to pierce holes in some pretty card to display these on, and then package them in some origami envelopes made from pretty, festice paper.

Peppy envelope | origami book | Pinterest | Origami ...

My eldest child actually taught me how to make the envelopes, but the image above is a really clear tutorial that came up in a quick search.

Last year, I spent around £40 on new earrings for family members, so at a quarter of the price I’m delighted with them, even without the eco-friendly aspect.

This is one of the many occassions that sustainability and affordability go hand-in-hand. What are your favourite money-saving, earth-friendly gift ideas – I’d love to hear about them! 

#NothingNewNovember

In a recent exploration of Twitter, I stumbled upon the hashtag #NothingNewNovember. And yes, it’s an old one, but one I’m going to attempt it this year regardless.

The reason this appeals so much to me is the timing – it comes at a point in the year when I would normally be getting ready for Christmas. And yes, I already buy a large number of my gifts used – particularly for my own children – but this is a great way to focus my mind in the run up to what is arguably the most wasteful time of year.

I’ll be doing another Do Nation pledge to help me along with this too – All Made Up, in which those participating promise to make a certain number of gifts themselves. As a crafter – I knit well, crochet adequately, and mash things through a sewing machine – I’ve got loads of resources with which to create amazing gifts so I probably need to purchase very little to make this Christmas happen (though many people will be getting knitted socks…).

In addition to only buying used items to gift, or making gifts myself, I intend to buy nothing at all for  my household during this time – beyond the obvious consumables (i.e. food, soaps, petrol etc.)

This will be especially difficult given the fact that I’m going to visit friends midway through the month.

What are your top tips for reducing the amount you buy over the holiday season? Come and let me know!

Low impact hobbies

Trying to reduce our impact on the planet doesn’t begin and end with what we buy and how we travel – the things we do in our free time have an impact too.

There are so many ‘green’ ways we can spend our time – some obvious and others less so. Here are a few of my favourite hobbies, both eco-friendly and those which are less so, but I’ve included both in the interests of full disclosure and because there are ways to make a few of the ‘less good’ hobbies significantly greener.

Walking

This is a no-brainer in ‘green’ terms. What’s better than getting out into the world and enjoying the world around us, after all? We’re out every day with the dog, but more so in the late summer and autumn as this is the main foraging season – both for fruit and mushrooms. And who doesn’t love free food?!

If you need a little help to get over the ‘doorstep mile’, then taking a camera and indulging in a little photography can help. The cameras in most modern phones are great these days, so you don’t necessarily need special equiptment. I still have an old DSLR from my pre-children, pre-self-employment days and really enjoy just parking myself somewhere in the summer months to wait…

Eventually dog or child will oblige and I can snap a magical memory. Taking a picnic and a kite on a walk can turn it from a morning out into a whole day. We keep an ‘adventure kit’ in the back of the car – it contains the makings of tea and coffee, cous cous, cutlery, enamel plates, a change of clothes for everyone, some towels and our Ghillie Kettle – my 30th birthday gift from my dad and the best one ever!

Reading

Reading is possibly my favourite thing in the world to do. It can be 100% free, used for learning or just entertainment. In the day time, you don’t even need to switch on a light to do it so it’s really low-impact. And at night, all it really takes is that lamp – though a cup of tea makes it even better 😉

Signing up to the local library totally transformed how I read – it was like being given permission to order every book I’ve ever wanted and it costs nothing (unless I bring the books back late…) It’s a fantastic way of sharing resources and finding out about local events. Through our library – just one room, open three days a week for two hours a time – I’ve learned CPR, taken my kids to craft sessions, nursery-rhyme sessions and Lego clubs. I’ve checked out knitting books, sewing books, How-To books, cook books for the apocalypse and too many stories to count – all for free.

I realise that not everywhere is equipped with a library full of passionate staff, and if that’s the case, there are other ways to read for free/very cheap.

I was lucky enough to score one of the older models of Kindle on Freecycle, many years ago and use it now for things I find via BookBub. Basically, you sign up and once daily you’ll be sent a round-up of cheap/free e-books from the genres you expressed an interest in. Particularly of note was the time I got Naomi Klein’s ‘This Change’s Everything’ for all of £1.99. It was turbo amazing.

Another way of reading for free without a library is to check out Project Gutenburg. This is a collection of literature on which copyright has expired, so before you shell out on the classics, it’s totally worth looking here first.

Obviously, there’s the usual second-hand market – online and charity shops – but there is still some cost there, even if it is just a small one.

Gaming

I don’t just mean video-games either – I play anything. I especially love a board game.

Board games are fairly kind to the environment – most are made from cardboard/paper pieces with only a handful of plastic bits (if there are any), and few require batteries.  Charity shops and online are a great place to buy second hand games and there are some real bargains to be had out there. They’re brilliant for children – they teach turn taking, dealing with disappointment, cooperation, as well as maths and language skills.

Ocean Bingo Illustrated - Holly Exley Illustration

They can be absolutely beautiful, deeply educational and a lot of fun. We took a huge pile to our after-school club and it was so sad to see how many children were put off at first – thinking they were ‘boring’. A couple of rounds of Hape’s ‘Ghostly Hours’ soon fixed that though! Who doesn’t want to catapult small creatures at one another – right?

Деревянные игрушки - купить в Киеве по хорошей стоимости ...

With kids, board games can get stale quite quickly, so churning through charity shop finds and returning them is one way to keep things fresh. Or you could make your own – either with pens and paper, or with Lego. Your only limits are your imagination.

In terms of electronic games, the waters muddy slightly…

Increasingly, friends of mine have been doing away with physical media, choosing to download their purchases instead. Which is great, because there’s not an actual item to dispose of when it’s outlived its usefulness and there’s no transport costs – financial or environmental. This is a really expensive way to play games, though.

Second hand games are a totally viable option, but even used, a popular PS4 title can set you back a fair bit. PC games tend to be cheaper but so often, it costs less to buy a used console than it does to buy an expensive gaming PC. A console makes a great media centre too – streamer, DVD player etc. – so you can get away with fewer lumps of tech attached to your TV.

As I said above, I will play absolutely anything so I spend a lot of time with the games you get as part of PSN Plus. Which is great, if you’ve got a Playstation… less so if you don’t, or if you’re interested in a specific title. This is where services like Boomerang Rentals comes in. Cheaper than second hand, this is a great way to share resources. I was skeptical about the packaging until I tried it out, but it’s reused on the return journey so the only waste at your end is a slim strip of plastic.

Of course, if you have a PC, you do have other options – my favourite being Abandonware – basically the Project Gutenberg of the video-game world, this site collects old games and makes them available for download.

If you’re not sure where to start, my nostalgic self absolutely recommends Utopia: The Creation of a Nation.

It goes without saying that playing video games uses electricity, but turning off the TV and any other paraphanalia you might have attached (amp, console etc.) when you’re not playing can go a long way to helping reduce the power consumption.

Crafting

My crafting skills have saved me so much money over the years and have kept so many of my textiles in circulation when they would otherwise have been binned.

I knit well, can crochet a little, and can mash stuff through a sewing machine if I need to. These can be really expensive hobbies, if you buy everything new, but as above, second-hand is a great way to keep things sustainable and affordable.

That said, with yarn, I’m a real pushover. I reason with myself that with yarn, you should divide the cost by three because you’re getting:

  1. The yarn – a beautiful item in its own right (the stuff in this picture came from GamerCrafting).
  2. The joy of working it – literal hours of entertainment.
  3. The finished item – a unique piece of art.

I do buy a lot of my yarn at the charity shop, but when I do want to splash out on something special, I tend to go for independant weavers/dyers, or an ethical store like Yarn Yarn (the banana yarn is especially scrumptious).

***

Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive – I included foraging in with walking when it really deserves its own post, for example. But I wanted to highlight that there are loads of low-cost, low-impact hobbies out there, as well as ways to make things you might already be doing a little more earth-friendly.

How do you pass the time?

In the bathroom – a big, long, text-heavy post

When I first started writing this blog, I mentioned that I’d like to reduce our waste in the bathroom.

So far, we’ve managed to make quite a few changes:
– Soap bars instead of plastic bottles
– Shampoo bars instead of the liquid alternative
– a menstrual cup instead of tampons/pads
– paper-stemmed cotton buds
– using crystal deoderant – it lasts years!
– not using seperate body wash or conditioner
– using vinegar to clean with

A lot of these alterations were driven by cost – bars of soap and shampoo last so much longer than liquid versions and the menstrual cup was a superb investment*.

I’ve used PitROK crystal deoderant for over a decade now and have only had to replace my stick once (because I lost it!) in that whole time. So, even though Boots has it sitting at £6.59, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment and saves money long-term. It does have a plastic ‘sleeve’ – for lack of a better word – but you can buy a plastic-free crystal deoderant from Salt Of The Earth. When my current PitROK stick finally runs out, I’ll be replacing it with this – it’s £4.85, so slightly cheaper. Do bear in mind, though that it’s 75g vs 100g of the PitROK.

So far, so good. Until you bear in mind that at the same time, we still use an electric toothbrush, Aldi’s own brand of dental floss and Tesco Essentials plastic-tubed toothpaste so there’s still considerable work to do.

Let’s not even start on my contact lenses…

Anyway. Going forward. What can I change?

I don’t remeber how much exactly the Aldi floss cost, and unfortunately I can’t find it online, but I did get two dispensers full in one pack and I seem to recall it costing between £1.99-£2.99 (though I could be wrong). According to MySupermarket**, expensive Oral B dental floss costs £2 for 50m at Tesco, making it 4p per metre.

The most cost effective eco-alternative I’ve found so far is the Bambaw floss from EthicalSuperstore – it’s made from cornstarch so is suitable for vegans too. For 50m, plus the reusable dispenser, it works out at £5.75 – just under 12p per metre. The refils cost £6.79 for two rolls, so work out at just under 7p per metre – a significant saving, though still nearly double the cost of the expensive supermarket variety.

Am I going to make the switch? I feel like floss is something that I either have to spend silly money on to get an earth-friendly alternative, or something I have to find an alternative to. I’m wondering if wooden toothpicks might be able to achieve a similar thing and between now and running out of floss, I’ll be looking for some in plastic-free packaging.

Floss aside, teeth are still a big source of plastic in this house. As I stated above, toothpaste tubes and electric brush-heads are big contributors but for the moment, I don’t feel like the former is something I can change. I know, I know… there are loads of alternatives out there, but there are family members with additional sensory needs and to have finally found a toothpaste we all get along with is such a relief that I can’t begin to think of changing that. Should Tesco alter their Essentials recipe, we’ll revisit this with reusable alternatives, but for now, I can’t see that changing.

I can, however, make a compromise with the brush-heads we use. We bought the electric toothbrush as a last-ditch attempt to ensure clean-teeth in the aforementioned family member so I’m not willing to get rid of it. We’ve done our best to choose one that will last a long time – it’s a ‘cheapy’ (from a set of two) that we bought from Costco in the days when we had a membership. The batteries are just standard AA size so we can employ our rechargables here. The fact that we can remove the batteries also means that when the toothbrush finally does stop working (four years and counting so far, though – touch wood!) we can carry on using the rechargables in other things whilst we recycle the handle as a small appliance with the local council.

It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s not the worst, either. As to the brush-heads though… Until now, we’ve been bulk buying them and still have six-months worth, which we’ll use before buying more. After that, however, we’ll be trialing some LiveCoCo heads which you can return to the manufacturer for recycling. These do cost significantly more than the standard ones (£9.99 for two, direct from the manufacturer!), but I’ll be switching to a cheaper bamboo manual brush at that point in an effort to offset some of the cost. The cheap toothpaste also helps here…

So what haven’t I covered yet?

In the past, we’ve tried the Who Gives a Crap (WGAC) toilet paper and… honestly? It clogged our drain. I don’t think that’s entirely the fault of the loo roll – it’s probably a combination of things. At the same time as trying it, I tried to curb our water consumption by putting full plastic bottles in the cisterns***. On top of that, the decline from our house to the septic tank isn’t that steep so things are predisposed to getting stuck. The WGAC loo roll is great at breaking down, but as a result it did so long before it reached our tank and we were left rodding the drains on nearly a daily – and sometimes twice daily – basis. It wasn’t a sustainable way to live long term so we’ve gone back to loo roll that takes a bit longer to disintegrate. In the future, I’ll be looking to try their more expensive bamboo range, but for now that’s just not possible financially.

Who Gives A Crap - Recycled Plastic Free Toilet Paper ...

Generally, we’ve been selecting 3-ply packs from budget supermarkets which use FSC trees and have reyclable outer bags. Recently though, I discovered Tesco’s own-brand recycled loo roll and so far so good on that. I need to do more research regarding the use of bleach etc. but this might be the best solution for us, going forward.

Cosmetics can be a big producer of waste – both in terms of plastic, unused products, and unwanted gifts. I don’t personally wear make-up, but I do appreciate a good flanel to wash my face at night. Back in the days when I could muster enough energy to paint my face, I found that the terry cloth of the towel was better than any brand of wipe, so I purchased a pack of small terry nappies. After children, they were purloined for their proper purpose, but I’m still partial to a flanel. Being a knitter/crocheter, I’ve seen a lot of really great, free patterns out there for washable wipes and it’s worth checking through the Ravelry archives. This is the one I often make to gift, and I’m super-impressed by this alternative shower-scrubbie.

I think the final thing of note might be razors. My husband stopped shaving many, many, pre-me years ago and I’m still working my way through the razor heads he bought for his Gilette during this time. Obviously, the most eco-friendly thing to do in regards to body-hair is not to shave, but for my own reasons, this isn’t an option for me.

Lots of people have written extensively about the advantages of safety razors over disposable/mixed-material reusables and I’d urge you to read some of their articles about life with one, as I still need to try one for myself. One of the main ideas is that being made primarily from metal, there are few ways for the razor handle to break, the blade is easily changed, is metal only so can be recycled and comes in much less packaging than the mixed-material alternatives.

So after all that text, is there anything you can see that I’ve missed out? I’d love to hear some of your tips for going low-waste in the bathroom – why don’t you come join me on Twitter?

__

*I do realise that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of menstrual cups but there are other reusable menstrual products out there – washable pads, period-panties, natural sponges etc – as well as disposable products which don’t contain plastic, or reusable applicators for conventional tampons.  If you’re interested in learning more, the Sustainable(ish) Podcast covers the topic of periods on three seperate episodes.

**Correct at time of publication.

***Using full plastic bottles is generally considered better practise than putting a brick in the cistern – the bottles doesn’t break down and wreck your pipes over time. Don’t learn this the hard way. Student landlords aren’t especially lenient…

 

Every scrap.

So, before I start, I just want to tell you that I took SO MANY pictures to go along with this post.

Only two survived, though, and I honestly don’t know what happened.

Which is sort of heartbreaking, because I did everything I possibly could to make sure as many edible things as possible survived the making of my dinner tonight (see what I did there – nice link into the subject matter, eh?)

Tonight I cooked from the Leon Vegetarian cookbook.

It’s possibly my favourite culinary tome at the moment – the Readers Digest cookery year aside, obviously – and that’s largely on account of the ‘cous cous with seven vegetables’ recipe. I managed to find a copy online, so I would absolutely recommend taking a look, even if you don’t own a copy of the book.

My mission tonight was to save resources in every area I possibly could whilst cooking dinner. Let me talk you through it and I’ll highlight anything I think I’ve done which cuts down on my resource use. You’re possibly doing a lot/all of it already, but I think it’s worth taking the time to recognise when we’re doing well 😉

First of all, this meal was vegetarian, the fresh vegetables were purchased without packaging and the cous cous was bought in a cardboard box from Lidl (though I can now buy it from the plastic-free shop in the village).

Even though the recipe called for plain cous cous, I used some leafs from a cauliflower I had sitting in the fridge – this is a part of the plant people usually throw away, but it’s tasty, valuable food. I fried these with a little garlic and tossed them through the cous cous before adding the water and a stock cube, then setting it aside.

I used the same pan to begin the recipe – see link above for procedure –  and rinsed the tomato can with the 100mls of water to get the most tomatoes possible. Then when I drained the chick peas, I retained the liquid from the can to use in the making of chocolate mousse for my child’s packed lunch.

I placed all of the vegetable peelings in a paper flour bag I saved so that I could put them in the compost bin.

We kept the leftovers to eat for lunch the next day.

In the text above, there are nine seperate uses of bold text – nine seperate times when I chose not to waste resources in a 20 minute period.

If we all did this for every meal, we would go a long way to eliminating food waste.

As I said, I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful finished meal, but I do have photos of the leftoves – a.k.a lunch!

   

If you’re interested in the chocolate mousse recipe, you can find it in my post about Aqua Faba.

What are your favourite ways to reduce your waste in the kitchen? Why not come and let me know on Twitter?

Making the most of what we’ve got – thoughts on food

It’s really easy to get into the habit of automatically ditching things, either because it’s what you’ve seen others do, or simply because you’re used to produce looking slightly different – shining cream potatoes or glossy-skinned apples, for example.

This year, our apples took a real battering. The skins were cracked by the sun and rain in combination, and beneath those blemishes were what looked like apple scab. Reading online, the best way to ‘treat’* the fungus is to make sure there’s as little detritus left from the tree for the fungus to grow on, after the tree has dropped its fruit and leafs for the year.

Being honest, my initial thought was to simply scoop everything up into the compost after the last leaf had fallen, but the tree has always been such an excellent fruiter that doing so seemed oddly like the betrayal of an old friend.

So, when a child-sized barrow full of apples was proudly presented to me, I decided to have a go at making the most of the fruit that was there, regardless of looks.

Sure enough, there is a lot of unusable apple in there. The cracks in the peel had made the flesh into a wasp-buffet, which in turn had turned the wasps into gourmet food for our local bird pupolation so stayed on after supper for the apple desert course.

Knowing that apple scab wasn’t a harmful fungus, I decided to just cut away the cracked areas and peel the skin off. Usually I don’t bother peeling the apples from the garden – they’re grown so far from anything that even resembles a pesticide that a rinse under the tap is more than enough to clean them – but on this occasion, I made the choice to strip them back to the fruit itself.

When that was done, I chopped them up and separated the core from the flesh. I packed the cores into a jar and covered them with a water/sugar solution to make cyder vinegar. There are recipes everywhere but Spot of Earth does a pretty detailed tutorial of how to make it.

With the ‘proper’ fruit, I filled a crumble pan and made a topping – a vegan one, in fact (using vegetable oil in place of butter works really well if you use golden sugar – the oil is cheaper too). There were still a good few cups full of chopped apple left so I grabbed the baby slow-cooker which I inherited from my grandmother, filled it and made my go-to apple butter recipe – 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of powdered cinamon for every 2 cups of fruit .

The apple butter will top my porridge in the coming months, and my toast, and any yogurt I happen to achieve… or honestly, I’ll just eat it with a spoon. It’s honestly the greatest preserve I have ever eaten.

It got me to thinking about other foods which don’t get eaten because of… well, I don’t know why.

I’ve always dug out the seeds from pumpkins, melons and squashes – because why would I buy these when they come free in my food. I either toast them in the oven – if we’re already drying mushrooms, or herbs or vegetable peel – or on the car dash-board. I either use them in bread to add some extra texture, or just snack on them.

So when we didn’t eat all of the cake that I made earlier in the week, I resolved not to throw it out. In fairness to my family, this particular cake was terrible – I ran out of cocoa powder so it was a not-so-chocolatey batter that I overbaked in cupcake cases to become what were essentially powder-dry hockey-pucks.

Ahem. Not my finest hour.

Anyway, using a pestle and mortar – I kid you not – I mashed up the ‘cake’. Then I poured homemade cherry schnapps onto it. Not much – just a tablespoon, but it’s potent stuff so that flavoured the lot. Then I folded this cake-powder mush into some chocolate buttercream icing. This, I rolled into balls and covered in dark chocolate.

Honestly, they’re so good I would make bad cake on purpose again.

After the cake incident, I had a look through the council-collected food waste caddy we keep under the sink. The contents tend to be things that are half-eaten. Single, once-bitten potatoes – for example – feature heavily, but not as heavily as Husband’s coffee grounds or my spent loose-leaf tea.

So my challenge is – how would you use these things? The tea and coffee, specifically, rather than the bitten tatties. Why not come and let me know on Twitter?

__

*Unfortunately, there’s no real way to treat it that I’ve seen so I can only really attempt to minimise its impact on future crops.

Sensory issues and the environment

This is something of a sensitive topic, and isn’t one I had expected to cover so soon. But with a post about oral hygeine coming up, I wanted to talk about something seldom discussed in regards to budget or environmentalism – sensory issues.

In the case of our family, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a result of an autistic spectrum condition, but many people struggle with certain textures and sounds – even amongst the neurotypical population (nails down a blackboard, anyone? Open-mouthed chewing?). In some cases, a person’s senses can be so hurt by a certain taste, or sound, or feel that all but a handful of foods are considered ‘safe’. I don’t have science at hand to support me on this one, but often, these safe foods are provided via the constant, unchanging recipes of ready-meals and convenience foods.

These tend to be the sorts of food which are heavily packaged in plastic, but if your child/ren or other family members won’t eat anything else, what options do you have?

Honestly – not a lot. In our case, toothpaste and brushing is the issue and we’re not going to get plastic-free in this area without endangering a child’s dental health, so it’s just not happening. What I’m trying to do instead is change my own actions first and explain them, in the hopes that modelling my beliefs and having an open dialogue will help. I’m also going to make alernatives available in case – as it occassionally does – the urge to try something new does occur and my child chooses to attempt the toothpowder/whatever I eventually decide on.

Perhaps it won’t though. And that’s OK too. I keep telling my children that we can only control our own actions – not those of others, and I think it’s important that I adhere to that myself.

But none of this is addressing the issue of food packaging.

Is there anything that can be done about having to buy food that’s heavily wrapped in plastic?

That really depends on where you’re buying your food and just how restrictive a diet the person with sensitivities has. According to Greenpeace, Iceland has the best policy for reducing single use and non-recyclable plastics, with Morrisons coming a close second. If you could swap – for example – brand name fish-fingers for own-brand ones in either of these places, that’s a good start. Though as I say, that does rely on there being a certain degree of culinary flexibility.

And if you can’t make the change? That’s probably ok. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.

I worry that there is a huge degree of ableism inherent in the ideal of a low-plastic lifestyle. I haven’t even begun to touch upon the pre-chopped vegetables that are housed in plastic and the positive impact these products can have on the lives of those who need them. I’m always reminded of the deep joy experienced by a friend with macular degeneracy – who died at 92 – when he discovered packets of prepared veg. Buying diced beef and ready-cut carrots, potatoes and onions meant that he could dump the lot in a slow cooker with a can of beer and feed himself a tasty, hot meal every night. It allowed him to remain in his own home until his eventual death without relying on me or his neighbours to make his food for him. He was a proud man who deeply valued his independence, something that the much maligned packaged vegetables granted him.

It was, literally, life-changing to have the option of these products, just as I’m sure it’s life-changing when one stumbles upon a safe food for a relative with extreme sensory issues.

I genuinely am doing my best to reduce our waste but there are a number of sensory constraints in our household. It makes this all very challenging and ultimately, we are all human and are all learning. I ask that you’re gentle with me when I post things which are less than ideal becuase I promise – I have looked for alternatives and I will continue looking.