Sunday, 27 March 2011

The third sunday in Lent - half way to a plastic free lifestyle.

Well hasn't it gone mighty quick, just three weeks ago I came up with the ridiculous idea of giving up plastic and now I am halfway through the abstinence, with just one slip up..... CROUTONS!!!  I wasn't well yesterday, I had been throwing up in the night, so under strict instructions to "just eat soup" I thought 'in my condition, it would be fair to have a plastic packet of crutons'.  I have since changed my mind, they were very delicious but I had them and my tomatoe soup with toast.  I could have made the croutons out of the toast and by doing so saved my pocket a few pennies and the landfill another indigestion episode.

Anyway, 12 days ago Liam emptied our little landfill bin.  All we put in our landfill is plastic packaging that we don't think can be recycled.  All our card, paper, tin and glass goes into our recycling bin and since my plastic vow, any plastic containers that we do buy go into our 'bit and bobs' box for later up-cycling.  And this weekend up-cycle we did.  Liam and I were finishing off our raised bed and needed to cover it with some netting as protection from its use as a litter tray!! and the pigeons eating our produce.  We used Rolo yoghurt pots, with a hole in, upside down, as net fixers so that the netting doesn't come off the bamboo canes AND today I made my own watering can sprinkler by putting holes in the bottom of a Yeo Valley Yoghurt pot. And it works a TREAT.  I got quite excited actually because it produces quite a wide spray. Watch out BLUE PETER you have competition!!!

But what about those items that we do put into the landfill bin, that we cant think of anyway to reuse??  Are they things that we can stop buying altogether, are there alternatives to these items or are there methods of recycling them that we havn't yet though about?

So here's my pile of suffocating, earth upsetting plastic.
It contained:
  • Cereal Packet
  • Tissue Packet
  • Crouton Packet
  • Spaghetti Packet
  • Plastic lid from a pot of cream
  • Complimentary chocolate wrapper
  • Cheese Packet
  • Plaster (i cut myself again!!)
  • Greggs chicken sandwich packaging (in the disguise of recyclable materials)
  • Bread Packet
  • Toilet roll packet
  • Coca Cola packaging
  • Sausage tray
  • Broken carrier bag
  • Medication blister pack and a
  • Scratch card (we have just given up, I promise)

For alternatives I have already recognised the following.  Bread and cheese packaging I had been buying in paper bags from Cambridge market, but Liam and I have started having our food delivered by Abel & Cole and I didn't think that 'of course they wont deliver a sliced loaf or a block of cheese naked'.  However they do have these wonderful refrigeration boxes, with recyclable ice blocks and lined with wool, so there is no Polystyrene (Big thumbs up for that one).  As for cereal, I am now getting organic porridge oats in a paper bag and for Liam's meat I am going to ask the local butcher if they would be happy to put meat straight into my own Tupperware containers.

With regard to things that we could just give up because we don't need them. We have given up the scratch cards, we can decline the complimentary chocolates, I will make my own croutons from my paper packaged bread and I can make myself a couple of handkerchiefs out of old t-shirts, instead of buying packs of tissues.  The cream is still a bit of an issue as we still havn't found a non-plastic way of getting our mits on it.  Fox and Sonja have suggested soya, but I really am not a fan of the old soy bean myself, and Stephanie has sent me some recipes on how to make my own cream, which I am plucking up the courage to have a go at.  Watch this space for that comedy show.  As for coca cola packaging, I shall have to request that my dearest buys his life juice in separately wrapped cans and then at least we can recycle the can, even though it is aluminium.  And the broken carrier bag, I dont know how we ended up with the carrier in the first place, so for that its a matter of making sure we have a reusable bag when shopping.

But my problems lie with the two other items.

Firstly, toilet roll.  All toilet roll that I know of, even those brands that have high environmental credentials are wrapped in plastic.  Andrex used to come in paper but I am not sure that it does anymore.  Does anyone have any solutions???  I am not quite prepared to start collecting spaghnum moss for the bathroom and I am not so sure that Cambridge Sewer Treatments would be too keen on the idea either.

Secondly, are blister packs for medication.  I think that the pharmaceutical industry is really going to need some innovative technology if it is going to manage the onslaught of peak oil.  As a transitioner I am happy to experiment with herbal plant remedies to heal my illnesses, and with what I believe to be the healthier tranistion way of living, illness will hopefully not strike so often.  But the medication that many people rely on to SURVIVE is completely dependable on the use of fossil fuels and plastic packaging.  For me the contraceptive pill is a landfill bug bare, its my preferred method of reproductive control but I cant have it without have plastic waste.  Luckily there are other methods that I could choose which would result in a lot less plastic waste, but all those individuals that dont have any other choice, what can they do?  This brings up the whole issue of the pharmaceutical reliance on fossil fuels, which also delves into an issue about our lifestyles and would prevention lead to a reduction in the consumption of medication?  For all of us who like to pop an aspirin as soon as a headache appears, or take a pro plus when the exam stress is on, maybe we can rethink about our use of such resources, but for those of us who need medication to manage heart problems, diabetes amongst many many other things, your health is definately more important than that little blister packet that went in the landfill.  And if you cut back on the other things, your impact will be negligible.  

Whilst we make our own personal developments in the face of  peak oil, maybe the Pharmaceutical industry are investing in alternatives too, not just with regard to packaging but also with the production of such medication. 
Let us hope.

Love and hugs, 


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Whats in your Tetra Pak???

Hello Ladies and Gents,

Sorry for the long wait, I have had a manic week with Transition related goodness.  But here it is..... finally..... as promised.  Now, I have spent the last two days putting together a whole ream of information about the Tetra Pak products and the company, trying to create an unbiased description of environmental credentials of the packages, and then I thought, 'This is a blog, not a bloody book,' so I have condensed the information down to the most plastic related parts and saved my big long blurb in a folder, just in case I decide to right a book. 

So whats in your Tetra Pak??

Now my personal favourite is the good old Innocent smoothie.  Not being fruit lovers its one of the best ways me and my fella get our five a day.  Then there is Soya Milk,  Apple Juice and many other deliciously freshing liquids.  But I am afraid to say that there is also some plastic in the form of layers of polyethylene.  In the famous words of Homer Simpson..... DOH!!!!

So a week ago!!!!  I really needed some milk, but we had polished off the milk from good old Maurice, so I thought I would dance with the devil a little bit and bought a delightful looking TetraPak of delamere Channel Island Milk.  I tell you what is some damn delicious milk as well, it seems thicker than your average semi-skimmed, it was a delight.  But I had a little inckling that this TetraPak had a certain banned material in it and sure enough it does.

Pie Chart from
Tetra Pak contains three raw materials; Paperboard 73%, Polyethylene (Plastic) 22% and Aluminium 5%. 

The polyethylene provides a moisture barrier internally and externally as well as playing the role as an adhesive to stick all the layers together.

The most energy expensive parts of the life cycle of the Tetra Pak are the acquisition of the raw materials and the transportation of the packages to the consumers home!!!

On the Tetra Pak website you can find your specific package model and find out its Carbon Footprint.

So my Channel Island Milk came out of a Tetra Rex Base, and the website Carbon Calculator says that for raw material acquisition and transport 37g of CO2 were emitted.  When you add on the emissions for the conversion of the raw materials into the carton package, there is an extra 10g, bringing the carton to a total of 47g of CO2.  You can then choose to see what this equates to in your day to day life and my Channel Island Milk carton (before filling and transporting to the shop and then me taking it home and before recycling) has a carbon footprint equivalent to half and hour or T.V viewing!!! 

There is a fab little website about Tetra Pak lifecycles at, do have a gander. 

Now with my lent challenge the issue is the plastic, but this all starts to make me think that actually, how does this compare to a regular plastic bottle of milk and then to a glass bottle?  Which of these three would be the lesser evil when it comes to carbon footprint and resources wasting?

Now Pablo Paster of, gave some indication of the impacts to answer the question 'Which Milk container has the lowest carbon emmisions?'

He determined through some clever maths calculations that when comparing a glass milk bottle, with a plastic one and a tetra pak, that actually the milk bottle had the highest emmissions due to its weight and the energy required to make and recycle the glass.  Tetra Pak had the lowest emissions due to its weight, energy efficient processing and the maximised used of renewable materials.  The issue with the cartons, which Tetra Pak are all too aware of, is the low recyclability of the plastic and aluminium in the cartons.

And now there is a NEW KID on the milk aisle, the PAPIER-MACHE bottle invented by Suffolk fella Martin Mysercough.  There is still a plastic bag to hold the milk on the inside of the bottle, but the carbon footprint is half of that produced by a regular milk bottle.  Lets see how he fairs in the Asda pilot scheme.

So currently the individual has a two choices, the lowest carbon footprint or 100% recycling opportunity.  Currently we cant have both, but corporate companies are increasingly investing money into finding even better alternatives for carbon happy, wasteless life cycles.  At the end of the day, finding these solutions is beneficial for us all.

I am not sure which I believe is better, I need to think it over for a little while longer.  For me it requires careful consideration of localisation, as the figures I have read are all averages and estimates.  The ability of my Cambridge County Council to recycle all the contents of a Tetra Pak as well as the where the Tetra Pak is travelling from to get to my supermarket, need to be considered.  Equally I need to find out if the glass bottles I am currently recieving are being sterilised and reused, as opposed to melted down, and where exactely is my milk coming from?  One thing I am sure about however, is that I really dont need to go back to the plastic milk bottle.  YEY!!!

Love and hugs,


Friday, 11 March 2011

Day 3 - An Indian Take-away Dilema.

This is the story of how the packaging from my Indian Take-away turned into a funky Mobile of Memories.

Just a quick update of Day 2:  it was actually a pretty easy day as far as plastic refusal went.  The hardest bit was actually saying no to a bar of chocolate.  Thank goodness for foil wrapped Cadbury's Creme Eggs.  I am usually very strict about not having easter chocolate before easter, but I think I am entitled to the odd one here and there. Right?

Anyway the Indian Take-away dilema.....

So I get home with a bag full of non plasticised vegetables and the non plasticised cheese (which the cheese man on the market found rather amusing, but yey I found cheese) and my partner says, "I know that you have already bought food for tonight, but it is Friday, do you fancy a treat?  Indian perhaps?" " Yes please,"  I would never say no to a curry.  So we drive up to Curry Queen to pick it up and low and behold it is all in a plastic bag, "Oh blinking heck."  Liam says that he will take the responsibility of the plastic bag because he bought the Indian, I am grateful for the gesture, but not satisfied with the solution.  Then when we get home, what is supposed to be a bag of delicious indian delights; my vegetable biriyani, a vegetable samosa, peshwari naan and popadoms, is actually a hideous bag of plastic!!!!!

So what have we got in this plastic bag of 'delights'?
  • Plastic card type lids. Urgh!!!! 
  • A plastic bag, filled with sweaty salad. Yummy!!!
  • Two plastic pots for the mint yoghurt (we get extras for being loyal customers!!!)
Dont panic, dont panic!!! This is not a fail on day three.  Although there is nothing I can do with the little plastic salad bag, I am afraid I resigned to pop this into our little landfill bin.  But after some careful brain storming everything else has been upcycled.  Heres how....

The little plastic yoghurt pots are going to be used to either raise little seedlings or as portable sauce containers.  Even thinking about it now, I could use them to take a little bit of milk to work, so I can have a proper cuppa. 

The plastic bag I am going to save to knit a funky plastic carrier, as sold in Urban Larder, Mill Road, Cambridge.  Apparently you need 55 bags to knit one of those.  Thats going to be a challenge, but my Dad really wants one after seeing them in i so I am eager to make him one.

As for the plastic lids I thought 'I cant let these go in the bin, there has to be something I can do with them'.  Because of the lids waterproof qualities, I thought I might be able to make them into mini whiteboard style memo boards, but the red board marker just left a big dirty smudge.

What on earth can I do with these??.............  How about a photograph mobile?

Great! So I washed the lids, cut off the curry stained edges and dug out some of my favourite photographs (taken by my good friend John) of a trip to Arran, Scotland.  I used the additional brown paper bag that the indian came in as a mount, to add some shape and colour and then strung them together with some string.  And here it is... my Mobile of Memories.

Parental Advisory Notice: Anyone under the age of 22 years old must be supervised by a responsible adult to avoid injuries, which could lead to the requirement of plaster (ironically made of plastic).
Love and hugs,


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Day 1 of the Plastic Free Challenge

Day 1 was actually a pretty good plastic free day.  I came across quite a few plastic packaging problems, but managed to find a solution to every one.

It started with planning the evening meal this morning:
'ooo, I know, how about mushroom tagliatelle' I suggested this morning......... oh wait....... my homemade tagliatelle requires cream...... and cream comes in plastic pots... well thats the end of that one then.  Instead I concluded to have med veg with cous cous (already in a packet in the cupboard, but thats allowed) with pitta bread .... no wait, that comes in plastic packaging too, soooooo....... fresh non-cellophaned ciabatta, brilliant.  I managed to buy my red onion, courgettes, peppers and three fat and floury ciabattas from the Cambridge Market, with absolutely no plastic packaging at all.  SCORE!!! : )  Not only that.... by refusing plastic I am buying fresh food from local indepedent traders; supporting my insides AND the local economy. 

I think there is going to be more to this plastic refusal malarky than I thought.

On my way home, I was starting to get super hungry and when I get super hungry I get super crabby (friends and family can vouch for me here).  Usually and desirably I go and grab a packet of my favourite Walkers Max Paprika crisps, and/or an utterly scrumptious bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk Caramel chocolate, the crisps cost about 75p and the Cadbury's bar costs about 55p.  Obviously wrapped in 'super sexy, shiny' plastic, they are not permissable, so...starting to feel my ship sinking.... I popped into the Farmers Market Outlet at the bottom of Regent Street.  I purchased the most delicious, juicy, sweet and NUTRITIOUS Williams pear for a mere 25p!!!! 25p!!! That is incredible.  So now I am also getting more vitamins AND saving anything from 30p-£1.05, a day. 

Now the REAL issue came when I started to approach home and the smell and taste of a hot mug of Yorkshire tea started to make its absence known to my tongue.  Then I realised OH NO!!! We ran out of milk this morning AND milk comes in a PLASTIC bottle.  AAARRGH!!!  I was pretty sure I was out of luck on this one, but desperately tried the newsagents and the Budgens on the corner, JUST IN CASE they stocked milk in glass bottles.  I am afraid the ending is not a satisfactory one....... neither the newsagents nor Budgens stock milk in a glass bottle, plastic YES, glass NO.  So I had to resort to some old, just add water, hot chocolate powder, YUCK!! (without the tea, just the hot chocolate on its own).  'I canna be going without me Yorkshire Tea' I sighed.  So onto the net to contact my local milkman, to see if he can deliver fresh organic milk to my doorstep, tomorrow morning and thank goodness he can, otherwise I would be having some serious withdrawal symptons. 
So my local milkman, good old Maurice Reed of Milk&More, will have two organic pints on the doorstep in the morning.  Thanks Maurice.  

Other plastic abstenance successes today:
  • Opting out of laminating articles for the display board at work (additionally removes glare from lights, double win).
  • Choosing a paper packaged baguette over my usual cling filmed brie and cranberry sandwich from Annabelles (it was equally delicious).
  • Saying no to plastic bags.  'No Thankyou.'
Cream, it seems, is the one that may be troublesome to source for making mushroom tagliatelle.  However we only use cream for that recipe, so maybe I could find an alternative or I could scrap the recipe, problem is it is top of the list in our house.

Any ideas of how to get cream without the plastic and without the purchasing of a cow, please let me know.

Love and hugs,


Monday, 7 March 2011

A New Lent Challenge.

Having found I could no longer tease my vegan friend for her strong and admirable dedication to animal rights, as I could no longer think of any good reasons for eating meat, I decided that Lent 2010 would be a 40 day meat free challenge. On day 41 (the end of lent) I decided not to go back, I had no good reason to eat meat other than I USED to enjoy it. Now a year later and I have barely looked back, I cant even cook meat for my carnivorous partner!!!! A month ago I was pounding a very 'healthy' steak for my beloved, with the hope of giving him a delicous culinary treat only to find myself crying over and praying for the poor life of the cow!!!! What a phenomenal life change!!!

So Lent 2011 is on its way and I thought, 'This is a great opportunity for another life changing give up.' But WHAT?? What shall I give up this time?

Well after a lot of contemplation and some really rubbish ideas like chocolate (as if) and Yorkshire Tea (impossible), I decided on ...........plastic packaging!!!!!!!!!

Then I realised .......oh...... actually that it is going to be REALLY hard.

So here are the rules of my 40 days without plastic packing.

  • No plastic food packaging - (if desperate I can only get the packaging that I can upcycle, if that isnt possible I have to go without).
  • No plastic bags (obviously).
  • Essentials such as toothpaste - (research and source non-plastic packaged products, if they dont exist make current supplies strech further).
  • No luxury shopping items made from or with plastic on them - (no excuses).

This is going to be a toughy and I am sure that more things, I havnt even thought about, will crop up as I go along. I intend for this challenge to develop into an exploration of alternatives to plastic packaging and a permanent change in my own personal consumer behaviour.

I would be really pleased to for suggestion and feedback and hope you enjoy the challenge.
Watch this space......!!!

Love and hugs,