#12ecothings: The 2nd and 3rd Quarters

In March I posted about our #12ecothings journey that we had embarked on at the beginning of the year. The idea is that in order to make lasting changes in our lives which will benefit the planet, we adopt one eco switch each month. This means that by the end of the year we will have made twelve swaps which we can carry forward.

Our journey so far has been a learning curve. Some switches have been easier to make than others. Sometimes we’ve made two swaps in one month, then gone a month without making any. It’s just depended on when we’ve run out of things and have been ready to purchase something more eco-friendly. I don’t believe in throwing away something just so that you can look eco-friendly, so we’ve been running down what we have at home first.

In March I talked about the three switches we’d made – water bottles, oral hygiene and loo roll. These swaps are still very much in effect. We take our water bottles everywhere we go, all of us now have a bamboo toothbrush subscription with We Are Bristle (although I’m still looking for eco friendly toothpaste for my children), as well as a loo roll subscription with Who Gives A Crap. Our homemade toilet wipes are also still being used, although I need to make more, as we only have enough to last us around two days.

Our next six swaps are as follows:

1. Soap. I’ve always preferred bars of soap, as the liquid stuff really dries out my hands, even the ones with added moisturiser. I used to buy the liquid soap in the plastic pump bottles, as it was easier for the children to use. I’ve gone back to bars now though, as not only do they last much longer (my kids can go through one bottle of liquid soap a day if let loose in the bathroom), they can be completely package-free if you know where to look. At the moment we have the sea vegetable soap from Lush, but I’ve also found soaps from independent makers in charity shops, craft shops, and on Etsy. If I can’t get it completely package-free, I look for bars wrapped in paper. This can then either be recycled or repurposed.

2. Dishwasher powder. Technically, in order to be the most eco-friendly we can, we shouldn’t even have a dishwasher. That being said, we’re a big family and we purchased our dishwasher less than three years ago. I used to spend hours doing dishes – more so when we were entertaining family and friends. When we bought our new kitchen we weighed up the pros and cons of having a dishwasher, and in the end the time-saving incentive was the deciding factor. It’s generally only on once a day on the eco setting, plus we bought one with an A+ energy rating. We started off using dishwasher tablets, but these were all individually wrapped in plastic, so when I discovered you could buy loose powder in a cardboard box we switched to that. The tablets are designed to go in the big models, but as we have a slimline model we don’t need as much detergent, so since swapping to the powder we get more washes for our money too.

3. Shampoo/conditioner. This has been a bit of a stop-start switch. I have a waist-length mane of dry, sometimes-curly-sometimes-straight-mostly-can’t-make-up-its-mind hair. It takes shampoo, conditioner, plus an occasional treatment/serum to tame it into something that I’m willing to inflict upon society! I took the plunge and bought a bar each of shampoo and conditioner from Lush, as well as a serum for added moisture. The shampoo bar was great, although with both myself and Kevin using it, it went down quite quickly, despite the fact that I only need to wash my hair twice a week at the very most! The conditioner bar wasn’t great. I didn’t feel it did much for my hair, although it could be that I need to try a few to find one which suits my hair. When both had run out I ended up being pushed for time and bought shampoo in a plastic bottle. I did buy a big one that I knew would last though, and my kids have plans to turn it into something wonderful once it’s finished! I’ve seen loads of different eco substitutes for bottled shampoo and conditioner on Pinterest, the most popular one being apple cider vinegar. I’m planning on trying out a few and may do a separate post on my findings. I’m not quite ready to try the no ‘poo method yet, although I’ve heard good things about it. The serum is great – definitely something I’ll be sticking with! My kids still use baby shampoo, as three of them have quite sensitive skin. I’m on the lookout for an eco brand for them though, particularly one in sustainable packaging.

4. Straws. I was a bit on the fence about this one – not because I don’t think plastic straws are having a negative impact on the planet, but because straws aren’t generally something we use. I felt that if we bought some it would just be for the sake of saying we had switched to reusable straws! However, I’m partial to a cocktail once in a while, and my teeth can be sensitive to cold drinks if there’s ice in them. Kevin bought me some bamboo straws which can be washed and used again and again. When they are at the end of their life they can be tossed in the compost bin, so are very environmentally friendly. The kids love using them when they have mocktails too.

5. Food wrap. Cling film and aluminium foil are the two things I was most keen to find substitutes for. Luckily I didn’t need to look far, as beeswax wraps are one of the most common swaps available. Naturally antibacterial and sustainable, they come in all different sizes and can be composted once they are beyond reasonable use. I went with Bee Green wraps, as they only use the surplus beeswax from the hives and are based in Devon. I am looking at making my own – if you’re interested my SIL, Jo, has a great tutorial.

6. Reusable bags. This is one which we have actually been doing for years, as we have acquired a stash of reusable bags for the shopping. One thing which really bothers me though, is the amount of plastic used to package fruit and veg in the supermarket. Even the loose produce invites you to put it in a plastic bag! I rebelled against this by making my own fabric produce bags. I used spare fabric I had lying around, but you could make them out of anything – an old t-shirt; a spare pillowcase; an old sheet. Even the most amateur sewer could whip up a few in around twenty minutes. I’ve had fellow customers come over to me in the supermarket to comment positively on my bags, as well as the workers on the checkout. One checkout lady even recognised me the next time I was in, thanks to my homemade produce bags, and called over her colleagues to have a look! A bit of eco-fame does wonders for adding a bit of glam to the weekly shop!!

It’s been fun working out which swaps to make, as well as giving us that warm glow which comes with doing good. We are still doing nowhere near enough to save our beautiful planet, but we’re getting there.

Which eco swaps have you made?

Real Nappy Week 2018: Which Nappy?

For Real Nappy Week 2018 I’m bringing you my experience of using cloth nappies – ten years’ worth over four children. Yesterday I spoke about how our journey began with Bambino Mio nappies, so today I’d like to share my thoughts on some other well-known brands that are out there.

I’ll begin with TotsBots. Based in Glasgow, these nappies have won the Mother and Baby Award for Best Reusable Nappy a record nine times! We use the easyfit stars and the bamboozles.

The easyfits work in the same way as the miosolos – both are pocket nappies with the insert attached for easy assembly. The easyfit comes with a booster that attaches with poppers. It has a velcro fastening and poppers down the front for adjusting the rise.

I’ll be honest and say that it isn’t one of my favourites, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be one of yours! It could simply be that my littlest ray’s shape isn’t as compatible with this nappy. I’ve found that since giving it the extra boost it has worked better for us, so if you’re having issues with any of your cloth stash, persevere and try different boosting techniques.

The bamboozles, on the other hand, are AMAZING!! These are a fitted nappy, which means that they need a waterproof wrap over the top. They are made from bamboo (which is incredibly absorbent) making these nappies a firm favourite for night time. They come with a bamboo booster that fastens in with poppers. I give it an extra boost too, then pop a fleece liner on top, to keep the wet away from my littlest ray’s rump. The bamboozle is a birth-to-potty nappy, and has poppers down the front for adjusting the size. Be aware that bamboo nappies take a bit longer to dry, but they are well worth it.

The wrap can be any brand you like, so don’t think you need to stick with one in particular. We use the TotsBots peanut wraps. Wool wraps are meant to be the best, but I’ve yet to try them. The wrap just fits over the nappy. Make sure you check the fitting around the legs and the waist, as you don’t want anything escaping, nor do you want it to be too tight for your baby.

I’ve been known to sometimes use a Close Parent pop-in outer as a wrap. The pop-in is a two part nappy which comes with an outer shell and two inserts, which are attached using poppers. (Hence pop in.) It’s one of my favourite nappies, mainly due to the double leg gusset. It’s my go-to nappy when babywearing, as the double leg gusset prevents any pressure leaks which can occur with babywearing. As with the other birth-to-potty nappies, it’s also size-adjustable with the poppers running down the front, and has a velcro fastening.

So far the nappies I have spoken about have been fastened with velcro (sometimes known as hook-and-loop.) I found this fastening to be preferable with a very young baby, as it made changes quicker. As my littlest ray is growing, however, I’m beginning to see the advantages of a popper fastening – the main one being that she won’t be able to take the nappy off!! Little hands love exploring, and she’s decided that her nappy MUST be explored! At the moment she needs to have a vest or tights over it, just so that she isn’t tempted to remove it for further examination.

Enter the Bumgenius nappies. I only have two, which I purchased from Kingdom of Fluff, but I’m tempted to buy some more, if they’ll keep little hands from squishing poo! I have a freetime and an elemental. The freetime has the inserts semi-attached, and they fold out for quick drying. They have poppers down the front for size adjustment, and a double row of poppers along the top for fastening. The elemental has a double cotton insert completely sewn in, so no stuffing or folding required. As with my other nappies, I’ve found giving them an extra boost with a bamboo booster increases the absorbancy.

My other popper nappies are Fuzzibunz, which I bought from Plush Pants. They are a pocket nappy, and come with a hemp insert. It’s worth noting that hemp doesn’t hold a lot of moisture, so I boost with bamboo and have had no further issues. The Fuzzibunz have a double popper fastening, which also overlaps to give a more flexible adjustment. They differ from other birth-to-potty nappies, in that they don’t have poppers down the front for adjusting the rise. Instead, they have strong elastic going all the way up the leg gusset, which allows for a more natural adjustment, as it will stretch with your baby. This nappy isn’t for everyone, but we’re quite happy with it.

Deciding to use cloth nappies can be a daunting experience for many. There is so much choice these days, that it can be difficult to know where to start. I’ve found that it’s very much trial and error. Avoid buying a complete birth-to-potty set from any one brand, as your baby’s nappy needs will change as they grow. Instead, buy a few different brands to try when they are on offer, borrow from willing friends, or see if there is a nappy library local to you. You’ll soon find what works for you. By all means read reviews and ask for advice, but remember you won’t truly know if a nappy is right for your baby until you try it for yourself.

This post is simply a snapshot of the choice that is out there. These are my own opinions about what has worked for me. If you have any questions on using cloth nappies, please don’t hesitate to ask. Check back in tomorrow for some more cloth nappy talk!

Real Nappy Week 2018: Our Journey with Bambino Mio

Real Nappy Week 2018 kicked off yesterday, so I thought it was a good time to share our family journey with cloth nappies so far. This week I’ll be writing a few different posts on the different nappies that we use. Today is all about Bambino Mio.

10 years ago we found out we were expecting our first child. From the minute we started discussing what we would need, we knew we were going to use cloth nappies. It just felt like the next step in our eco journey, and I don’t think we even considered using disposables. My family thought we were mad:

  • It would be more hassle. It wasn’t.
  • It wasn’t very hygienic. Wrong!
  • It was actually WORSE for the environment, as we had to think of all the extra washing we would need to do. Wrong again!

We did our research and decided to go with Bambino Mio two-part nappies. They are a British company, which was one of our criteria, but they are also one of the biggest worldwide suppliers of cloth nappies, as well as winners of over 50 awards. They seemed a good solid brand to go with, and we weren’t disappointed!

The miosoft consists of a cotton rectangular nappy and a PUL cover. The nappy can be folded in different ways, depending on the sex of your baby and how heavy a wetter they are. The cover is wipeable, so can be used more than once before washing if it’s just a pee. It has a velcro fastening, which makes changing a wriggly baby that bit easier. We also used disposable liners, which made the messy poo changes less messy!

We purchased 24 nappies, and 15 covers in 3 different sizes to start us off, and we began using them when our biggest ray was 3 days old. We used this same set for our next 2 children too. We did purchase some new covers, as we had 2 at a time in nappies for about 2 and a half years.

We thought we were done having babies, so the nappies were given to a charity shop that specialised in baby items. Our littlest-middle was 3 and a half, and had been toilet trained for a year, so off they went.

A month later we discovered I was expecting our littlest ray.

After the initial shock had worn off, we turned our attention to practicalities. Again, we knew from the start that we would be using cloth nappies, but this time we thought we’d have a look at the birth-to-potty nappies. There were so many different brands and types on the market, so I researched as many as I could, spoke to people who used the different brands, plus bought a few different ones to try. I was even dreaming about cloth nappies!

Bambino Mio had brought out the miosolo by this point, so I bought a few in the Aldi baby event, as they were a brand that we trusted. One of the great things about the miosolo is that it is so easily accessible. I’ve bought them direct from Bambino Mio, but I’ve also found them in Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and as already mentioned, Aldi.

The miosolo is a pocket nappy, with the insert attached at one end – this makes assembly super simple! The insert folds out to make drying even quicker.

It has poppers running down the front, which are used to adjust the size/rise of the nappy. The velcro fastening can be tightened and angled to adjust the leg openings.

Some nappy sites say that the miosolo is a bulky nappy, but I’ve actually found it to be one of the slimmer fitting ones. As your child grows, you will need to boost it to contain the heavier floods of pee, but I’ve found this is the case with all of my nappies. I’d recommend a bamboo booster, as they are known for soaking up the most moisture. We also switched to fleecy, washable liners, as a way of further reducing our waste.

Same nappy, same baby, one year later

Our journey with Bambino Mio has evolved as our family has grown. We’ve gone with what suited us best, as well as availability at the time. The brand has gone from the simple white covers to the vibrant beautiful prints that have flooded the market today. Never has a baby’s bottom been so colourful! Just one more incentive to give cloth a go…

#12ecothings: The 1st Quarter

This year one of our aims as a family is to be more environmentally conscious. We’ve always recycled, and we’re now on our fourth round of using cloth nappies, but feel we need to up our game a bit for the sake of the planet.

In January I was full of ideas on how our mega-eco life was going to look. We were going to shop small and local; go plastic-free in the home; wear organic, sustainable clothes; reduce our household waste. Having these ideas, I wanted to put them all into practice right away. Cue an overwhelmed Mags, on the hunt for dinner and almost crying because everything available at the supermarket was wrapped in plastic!

Instead of going into full meltdown mode, I took a deep breath and slowed down. Meaning that my kids got to eat that night! I’d seen a post on Instagram, where someone had started #12ecothings. The idea is that you aim to make one eco switch per month, so that by the end of the year you will have made twelve lifelong changes for the good of the planet. This seemed a lot more feasible to me, so we had a think about what our first few #12ecothings were going to be.

In January, we made sure that everyone in the family (including our littlest ray) had a reusable water bottle. We went with Klean Kanteen bottles, as they have a variety of styles to suit any need. Myself, my husband, and our biggest ray have insulated bottles, meaning we can use them for hot AND cold drinks. The two older girls have the Kid Kanteen sport cap – ideal for school and outings. Our littlest ray has the Kid Kanteen sippy cap, which is great for when we’re out and about. Gone is the need for plastic bottles, cartons of juice, or single-use coffee cups – plus it means extra pennies in our pockets!

February saw us re-evaluating our oral hygiene. We’d been making noises about moving to bamboo toothbrushes for a while – so when our toothbrushes needed replacing, we decided it would be our second switch. We decided to go with We Are Bristle, as they offer a subscription service. At the moment only my husband and I have them, as the children’s plastic ones are still usable. When they next need a new toothbrush, we’ll make the switch for them too. We’ve also been trying out the toothy tabs from Lush, to see whether they would be suitable for replacing toothpaste in plastic tubes. They do leave your mouth feeling very clean and have a lovely natural taste to them, but it would be expensive for the whole family to use them. I’ll be shopping around for a more cost-effective solution. This may even mean making my own. My husband made us all some mouthwash, using only cloves and water, and used a washed-out glass jar to store it in. He found the recipe in a book I borrowed from the library and it works brilliantly!

Another switch we’ve talked about making for a while has been the transfer from loo roll to family cloth. Family cloth is simply another term for reusable toilet wipes. This change isn’t actually a difficult one for us, as we use cloth nappies and cloth baby wipes. This is just the next natural step for our family. I had been putting off this switch, merely because I thought it was going to be an initial expense (although will save us money in the long run.) We use Cheeky Wipes for nappy changes, plus we have a hands and faces kit. They also do a toilet wipes kit, which look fantastic, but I couldn’t see us forking out for one any time soon. So I made my own, cutting up my biggest ray’s old vests and storing them in a spare basket. The idea is that they can be used for ALL toilet visits, with the used ones going into the nappy bucket. I’ve already tested them, and they feel so soft and luxurious on my derrière! Yep – old vests!

They aren’t the pretty wipes you see on Pinterest, but they do the job! I think sometimes people can lose sight of the real issue when going eco. It’s not about buying all the beautifully rustic things that make your home look the part. It’s about making use of what you already have. This switch definitely ticks that box for me! I should add that we will still provide recycled toilet paper for our guests, although they will of course be welcome to use our cut-up vests!

After my initial near-meltdown, I’ve learned that in the case of shifting to a more eco-friendly life, slow and steady is best. It gives you time to evaluate which changes you need to make, as well as the best way to go about making those changes. You don’t need to spend lots of money on the latest eco-trends to live a more environmentally conscious life. Making swaps as things run out is the way to go, along with cutting out single-use items. If everyone made just one change, the planet would be in a much better state. Which changes will you make?

Follow Friday: Go Eco! (Part 1)

Welcome to the first instalment of Follow Friday here at Sunbeams and Sass! These posts will be a small round-up of fellow bloggers that I stumble upon and wish to share with you. I’ll give a general overview of what their blog is about and a brief outline of their most recent post.

This week I’m looking at blogs which talk about an eco-friendly life. I’m calling it Part 1, as I follow quite a few eco bloggers, and won’t fit them all into one post. I also foresee me finding new eco blogs, and making Go Eco! a series gives me the opportunity to give them a shout-out in future posts.

First up, we have A Reusable Life. Heather is mum to two boys and her blog is based widely around reusable/ethical products – cloth nappies in particular. Once you start using cloth nappies, you begin to look at other changes you can make with regards to hygiene products. Her latest post talks about the Bloom and Nora cloth sanitary pads gift box. Take a peek if you want to know more.

Freerangemummy is about Clare and her quest for a more eco-friendly lifestyle. She, her husband, and their two boys are striving to live a life “which doesn’t harm people or the planet.” They have just given up their family car, in a further step to reduce their carbon footprint. Read about how they coped with their family holiday without a car in her latest blog post.

In Naturally Sus(tainable), Lisa is passionate about the environment, but understands that some people can feel overwhelmed when trying to make changes. Her aim is to share her experiences, and gently guide us through what we can do to live a more environmentally sustainable life. In her most recent post, she gives a rundown of eco gifts to give this Christmas. If you’re stuck for ideas and fancy giving the gift of sustainability, head on over to her page.

Sustainable Girl, Material World is where A shares her successes and her failures in living a simpler, more sustainable life. I like her blog, as it gives hope to those who are perhaps on the verge of giving up after a bad run. Her latest post tells us how she and her husband fared in their eco-living journey when they both got sick. Inspiring. (The song Get Back up Again from Trolls runs through my head when I read her posts!)

In My Journey to a Plastic Free Life Beth is going plastic free in an effort to save our planet from destruction. She shares her journey with us, as well as giving helpful tips for anyone who wants to join her (and why wouldn’t you?!) Her most recent post gives tips for how to go plastic free at Christmas – it’s not too late to start caring for our planet!

It’s so interesting to see how different bloggers approach the same principles and topics in different ways. There are so many things we can do to ‘go eco’ – the trick is to take baby steps and try not to do everything at once. If we all took this approach, we’d see the benefits very quickly. Spread the love for the eco bloggers! Do you have a favourite eco blog you’d like to give a shout-out to? Share in the comments!