#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?