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Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

To Tree or Not to Tree: Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas

Christmas is my favourite time of year, everyone gets a ‘go’ – way better than a birthday, when it’s just one person’s turn. Can you tell I grew up with three sisters and I still find it hard to share?!

It is a time of indulgence; joy, presents, laughter, gathering, eating. It is also a busy time of year; planning, thinking, buying, making, wrapping, cooking. 

We can’t do anymore. Fact. So let’s embrace the idea that less (and eco-friendly) is more.

I don’t think green should be obscene either, not in taste or in price.  There is no need to sacrifice aesthetics for ethics, I believe it’s called eco-chic. Embrace it.

Taking the tree as our starting point, how can we zero the waste with little to zero effort? To misquote, dream a little green with me!   

Real vs Fake

The 8 million Christmas trees that people have bought specifically for the holiday season in the UK will result in 12,000 tonnes of total waste.

If you already own a plastic tree, I beg of you, use your tree, use it until it’s on its last legs and then consider a more sustainable option in the future.  So for this year, for you, no need for any more effort.

Natural Tree Buyers- buy local.  Crucially, dispose of it correctly, chat up your local council to collect it.  Don’t send it to landfill. Trees will be used as chippings for local parks and walkways.

And what are the alternatives to both natural and fake trees?  Super cool, crafty, creative trees. Book Trees. Step Ladders with lights and Baubles.  Recycled cardboard Trees. 

Guaranteed you have books.  Likely you have a ladder. You probably have the internet.  Any option means at most you have to walk to the storage and at best, you can order from your sofa.  If you are ordering online, please consider the packaging and order everything you need from a few shops to save postage. 

Here are just 3 ideas but there are many more out there!

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Image credits, Studio Roof, Casa Diseno.

To Tree Part 2: Decorations

My guess is you have decorations already.  If not, buy local.  Saves petrol, saves time, supports small businesses.  Buy plastic free decorations- remember eco-chic. This will make your tree look classier, I promise. 

Wooden decorations may cost more than plastic but in the manner of saving money, buy less- no one wants an overladen tree. 

I know, I know, don’t get your tinsel in a twist, I promised zero extra effort, so stick up your hand and ask your child, mother, neighbor, partner to make some decorations!   Store them carefully and you won’t even need to ask next year!  Here are some DIY decoration ideas from Zero Waste Club:

To Tree Part Three: Presents

This is a great subject because I love presents. I love the thought that goes into presents.  Genuinely, the thought counts because I will otherwise judge you. From on high. Mercilessly.  In the way that the spirit of Christmas condemns. I don’t need them to be expensive, even the wrapping can be thoughtful, and thought is free! 

I am also excellent at giving presents. It’s a rare gift- all puns intended.

So what does a plastic free present look like?  Does it have to be a “thing” – might you consider a non-object?

Experiences: My favourite gift that keeps on giving. Anticipation, enjoyment and a memory.  Theatre, ice skating, puppet show, circus, concert, supper, the zoo.  Make it age appropriate and go! 

Charity: Donate to a charity of someone’s choice. Buy a present that donates profit to a charity.  We love these Polar Circles that give 20% profit to Marine Conservation Society.

Gift of Time: Offer to babysit / dog walk / fill a freezer. If someone did all three things for me, I might marry them!

For children: Pause and step away from the Legos.  What other materials could there possibly be other than plastic?   Wood, bamboo, felt, sugar cane, or metal. PomPom makes sugarcane building blocks that look like Lego, build like Lego, and are compatible with Duplo. 

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Image credit, Eilidh, Mummy and Monkeys

It’s a wrap.

This year in the UK alone over 200,000 miles of wrapping paper will be thrown away.  Greenpeace also found that 1kg of wrapping paper emits 3.5kg of CO2 during production. Plus, lots of wrapping paper is lined with foil or glitter making it unrecyclable, not to mention the plastic tape that is used to keep the wrapping in tact.

The route with least resistance is newspaper.  Assuming you still buy the weekend papers and it’s not online and Sunday night remains sacred, use them.  That’s what the sports section is for! 

If you have to buy paper, buy brown recycled paper. Shabby-chic is in and you heard here first!   Tie with raffia string, tuck a little posy of lavender or rosemary in the top.  So pretty (and thoughtful and cheap).  Use last year’s Christmas cards as label tags.

Oh, but you don’t want to leave the house to buy supplies? No problem.  We look East to Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping presents.  You can use any scarf, any swaddle and possibly even a tea towel that you have lying around.  Don’t miss this fantastic video created by Emily Dawe.

You want glitter? No problem- buy plastic free glitter!  Dust your wrapping and frost yourself.   And for those you like least, don’t be frugal, it’s impossible to hoover!


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Cecily Henderson

is one half of PomPom – a trailblazing website for imaginative plastic free designs for children, from product to packaging. Katherine and Cecily are old friends, they met at university, trotting late to lectures and much too late home. They shared hopes, lectures and Ribena. They have a collective love of travel, books, theatre, art, design, the environment and now, children. They are imperfectly green. Katherine has two small girls and Cecily two small boys, one of which arrives imminently. Sounds more like a matchmaking service than a business venture to me!.


 

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide (For Your Whole Home!)

Posted by Pawan Saunya on
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Cleaning can be a daunting task- there’s always something to be wiped, scrubbed, or swept- and it can seem even more daunting when you try to do it in an environmentally friendly way.

Traditional cleaning products come chocked full of chemicals that can contribute to smog, air pollution, and a host of health issues. They also come packaged in plastic, and it’s almost impossible to find any cleaning products in-store that aren’t detrimental to the environment- and if you do find them, they’re probably relatively expensive.

So, if you’re looking to be environmentally friendly in your cleaning routine without breaking the bank, you’re going to have to make your cleaners yourself.

Cleaning your whole home with DIY solutions can be done with just a few ingredients: bar castile soap, washing soda, baking soda, vinegar, salt, vodka, and essential oils. All of these ingredients are eco-friendly, and can probably be purchased with little to no waste. Read on to see how you can utilize these ingredients to clean everything in your home.

DISHES:

Instead of buying a traditional, brightly colored dish soap, whip up your own batch using these three simple ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp grated bar soap (organic castile soap works well)

  • 1 tsp washing soda

  • 2 cups water

  • Optional: add 10–20 drops of essentials oils after it has set for added scent (we recommend lemon)

Method:

1. Add grated bar soap and water to a space pan.

2. Heat the mixture until the soap has dissolved, and turn off heat.

3. Leave mixture to set for at least 2 hours.

4. If the mixture sets too hard, give it a whisk and it should loosen up.

5. Optionally, stir in essential oils.

6. Transfer to a washing up liquid dispenser.

7. Use with warm water and wash dishes as normal.

Use this dish soap with a bamboo dish brush for a fully zero waste routine.

KITCHEN COUNTERS, WINDOWS, MIRRORS, AND VIRTUALLY ALL OTHER SURFACES:

If you go to the store, you’re probably going to encounter a separate cleaner for every surface in your home- mirrors, windows, counters, etc. Truth is, you can clean most surfaces in your home with this simple, all-purpose cleaner that’s made with two ingredients: water and vinegar (or vodka). Simply add an equal ratio of the two to a spray bottle and clean away. You can add essential oils or diffuse the mixture with citrus peels or rosemary for some pleasant aromas. Spray the mixture on any surface you need to clean and wipe with a reusable cloth. Just don’t use this cleaner on granite countertops- we suggest you clean those using dish soap and warm water.

SHOWERS, TUBS, TOILETS, OVEN TOPS, STAINED TILES:

For hard to clean areas, you need something more for scrubbing than a simple cleaning spray. Using three simple ingredients, you can whip up a deep cleaning powder that’s good for these tough areas.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of baking soda

  • ¼ cup of salt (un-iodized)

  • ¼ cup of washing soda

Method:

Combine the ingredients in a jar. Use in combination with your all-purpose cleaning spray.

CARPETS:

Vacuuming does wonders in keeping carpets tidy, but you will still have to deep clean them every now and again using a carpet cleaner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white vinegar

  • 2 cups of water

  • 2 teaspoons of salt

Optional: Essential oils

Method:

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, spray liberally on your carpet, allow it to dry, and then vacuum.

To remove stains, try rubbing a combination of salt and white vinegar on the stains.

HARDWOOD FLOORS AND TILE:

Simply sweep your hardwood floors and use this simple recipe to get clean floors.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

  • One gallon of warm water

Method

Combine the ingredients in a bucket. Submerge a mop in the solution, wring it until damp (not dripping), and mop as normal.

You can also use this solution on tiles.

LAUNDRY:

To freshen up your clothes and linens you can use a simple 1:1 mixture of water and vodka as needed. As the vodka evaporates, it will leave your linens smelling fresh. You can also use this spray to freshen up your carpets or add essential oils to make an air freshener.

To actually wash your clothes, you can use a DIY laundry detergent.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bar of castile soap (grated)

  • 1 cup of baking soda

  • 1 cup of washing soda

  • Essential oils (optional)

Method:

Add 1–2 tablespoons to the bottom of the washer, wash with cold water (to save energy), and then hang dry (to save even more energy). You can also add ¼ cup of white vinegar to your washer as a fabric softener.

If your whites need freshening up, presoak them in a 1:4 ratio of baking soda and warm water for no more than 8 hours before washing as normal.

To remove stains, use this trusty chart to guide you in the right direction (courtesy of Paris to Go):

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Kayla Guilliams

is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.


 

The Environmental Impacts of Black Friday

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Black Friday is a day of sales, shopping, and overconsumption, and consequently, a day of environmental degradation.

More than 165 million people are expected to go shopping over the Black Friday weekend, primarily in the U.S, in order to snatch up products with prices that have been slashed dramatically.

When prices are slashed, consumers buy products in excess at prices that don’t reflect the true environmental, health, and social costs of the goods. A phone may be on sale for $300, but that doesn’t reflect the cost of the pollution, carbon emissions, and toxic e-waste that comes out of creating such a product.

Electronics are the number one most sought after type of good on Black Friday, resulting in the creation of a ton of e-waste. 50 million tons of e-waste is generated each year, and if left untouched, that number could rise to 120 million tons by 2050. Only 20% of this e-waste is recycled, meaning 80% of it is burned or dumped in a landfill.

E-waste is problematic because the materials it’s made of are toxic, endangering the lives of those, generally in Asia, who handle the waste in an attempt to recover the materials for resell. Children are especially vulnerable to these toxic materials, as absorbing these toxins can have irreversible impacts on their health, potentially stunting their growth and compromising their immune system. Children are often exposed to these toxins because they infiltrate waterways.

Toys and clothing also experience big price cuts during Black Friday. Toys made of plastic are bought in huge amounts, only to be thrown out the next year when something new and improved comes out, resulting in large swaths of plastic waste. Clothes are also bought only to quickly be thrown away as fast fashion trends change, contributing to the excess of textile waste that is seen across the world each year. The average US resident throws out 70 pounds of textiles a year and wears their garments only a few times before they’re over them.

These environmental impacts of Black Friday consumerism are being noticed by consumers, businesses, and policymakers. A group of lawmakers in France want to ban Black Friday citing environmental impacts as their reasoning, businesses like REI are closing their doors on Black Friday to combat consumerism, and many consumers are pledging Black Friday as a buy nothing day.

Other consumers are still taking part in Black Friday, but in a different way. Instead of using Black Friday as a day to overconsume and buy things they don’t need, they’re taking advantage of the sales to purchase sustainable necessities or support small businesses. Some are also using the day as an excuse to invest in sustainable projects.

What do you do on Black Friday?


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Kayla Guilliams

is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.


 

Zero Waste Bath Time (for Kids!)

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Spoiler alert parents… you don’t have bathe your children every. single. night!  A little dirt builds the immune system.  Yet, for many young families, bath time is an institution- it’s the final hurdle before bedtime and peace.  

While you may judge the choice of breastfeeding reading material, there is little that makes anyone laugh in the twilight hours but Sophie Kinsella nailed it:

 “The general perception is that if bath time goes, everything goes.  Chaos descends. Civilization disintegrates. Children are found wandering the street in tatters, gnawing on animal bones while their parents rock and whimper in alleyways.” Surprise Me. A Novel.

So, parents, if you are going to insist on that bath, make sure the environment loves it, you love it and the kids love it - water play in the bath is a whole lot less messy than pans on the kitchen floor!  Oh, and more water saved.   Kids are contained, you are seated, let the games commence. 

How shallow are you?

It is a true fact that a shallow bath uses the same amount of water as a 5-minute power shower, so in the age-old shower vs bath argument, we are good.  Ideally, all children would share the water and throw in an adult too, or … use it later.  Peace.

Eco-friendly bath toys

Get those eco-friendly rubber ducks in a row.  We ducking love this hilarious range of biodegradable bath ducks made from hevea tree sap; choose from the disdainful Parisian or adventurous pilot or cheery snorkeler.  Safe from birth, they can be squeezed, chewed, gummed – delicious!  

Lanco French Rubber Duck , PomPom, £5.99

Lanco French Rubber Duck, PomPom, £5.99

Oh bamboo, we love you.  

Teeth can be brushed in the bath before washing, tick more water saved!  Each year we throw away 260 million plastic toothbrushes in the UK, none of which can be recycled. So, don’t forget to swap your plastic brush for a bamboo one.


Get yer teeth into it!

Step away from the plastic tubes of toothpaste and embrace plastic-free toothpaste options for your whole family.   Fluoride vs no Fluoride is your call.

Georganics., Mint Toothpaste, £6.90. Fluoride, SLS & Glycerin free. Recyclable glass jar, aluminum lid and compostable box.  Kids are supposed to love the orange, ours preferred the mint.

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Dentabs.  Fluoride offers the benefits of remineralization. Leave them out for a day or two, as they are quite spicy!  Tastes like toothpaste and Is in compostable corn starch. Smart. Chew and brush, from age 6+.  

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No More Tears : Plastic Free Shampoo

Calling all babies, children, adults.  Shampoo bars work.  I swear.  Ditch the chemicals and the plastic bottles. Children won’t notice the difference and, adults, the bars foam a little less but they will leave your hair soft and clean.  Try, just once. Priced at under a fiver, it’s cheaper than your lunch and lasts longer! 

Living Naturally,  Calendula & Camomile Soap & Shampoo Bar , PomPom £4

Living Naturally, Calendula & Camomile Soap & Shampoo Bar, PomPom £4

Nightie, nightie, pyjama, pyjama.

We adore these award winning, design led, organic & ethical pyjamas created by mother and designer, Alienor Falconer.   They are soft, cosy and adorable.  Tried and tested.

Muslin Button Down Pyjamas , The Bright Company, £39.

Muslin Button Down Pyjamas, The Bright Company, £39.

These small changes in your routine have a huge impact, “but it’s one toothbrush said 9 billion people!” Simple steps, simple swaps- plastic for biodegradable ducks, plastic for bamboo toothbrushes, plastic bottles for shampoo bars.  Have any more tips for an eco-friendly bath routine? We would love to hear it in the comments.

And with that, I bid you goodnight.


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Cecily Henderson

is one half of PomPom – a trailblazing website for imaginative plastic free designs for children, from product to packaging. Katherine and Cecily are old friends, they met at university, trotting late to lectures and much too late home. They shared hopes, lectures and Ribena. They have a collective love of travel, books, theatre, art, design, the environment and now, children. They are imperfectly green. Katherine has two small girls and Cecily two small boys, one of which arrives imminently. Sounds more like a matchmaking service than a business venture to me!.


 

How The Fast Fashion Industry is Killing the Planet

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

If you walk into H&M, Zara, or Forever 21, you’re going to immediately get a pretty good idea of the fast fashion industry. The industry is one of companies and retailers that pump out on-trend clothes at ridiculously quick rates for ridiculously cheap prices.

These fast fashion clothes are able to be produced quickly and cheaply because of the sacrifices the companies make. Instead of making high-quality clothes that will last you years, they make poor quality clothes that will barely last you months (so you’ll have to come back to them and buy more). Instead of paying their workers a living wage, they make them work long hours and pay them next to nothing. Instead of being mindful of their environmental practices, they pollute, release CO2, and create monumental amounts of waste to no end.

The fast fashion industry has created a vicious clothing cycle that consumers buy into. Instead of buying a few high-quality, timeless pieces that will last them for years, consumers opt to buy a ton of low-quality, on-trend pieces that will only last a few months- either because the fabric gave out or because it’s no longer “in style”.

The cheap price point of fast fashion clothing is enabling this overconsumption of textiles. Most consumers no longer have to be mindful about their clothing purchases, because they can go to H&M and buy a dress for the price of a latte. We buy twice as much clothing as we did just 15 years ago, and this gap is only growing.

Between the growing demand of consumers for cheap, on-trend clothes and the irresponsible production practices of fast fashion companies, the industry has positioned itself as one of the largest polluting industries in the world- second only to oil and gas- and as an industry responsible for 5% of global carbon emissions, over 90 million tons of waste, and .6-1.7 million tons of ocean microplastic pollution.

The negative impacts of the industry don’t stop at its unprecedented environmental impact- the industry barely pays its workers. They exploit their labor force, which is 85% women, and force them to work long hours for below a living wage. These workers are often in unsafe working conditions- some have to deal with the health impacts of handling chemicals all day, and some of them have to work in buildings that are on the verge of collapse. A perfect example of this worker mistreatment was the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. Over 1800 garment factory workers were killed because management didn’t take workers’ fear of the building collapsing seriously- they were too focused on turning a profit.

As you can see, the magnitude of the impacts of the fast fashion industry is huge. The industry employs 40 million people, turns a profit of around $3 trillion, and is still growing. However, there is a lot of room for consumers to take charge and demand change.

For one, we can boycott fast fashion altogether. While the industry can increase workers’ wages, decrease chemical use and create textile recycling programs to lessen their social and environmental impact, the reality is that this model of unprecedented fast production and consumption of textiles is inherently unsustainable. The sustainable model of textiles is built off of producing and consuming less, and this is a model that will never work for the fast fashion industry. So, as consumers, we need to shift away from fast fashion and support companies that produce timeless pieces that won’t go out of style within a month (and that also utilize ethical, sustainable practices), or shift towards buying second hand if the pricepoint of the ethical and sustainable brands is too fiscally unattainable.

Consumers can also start valuing the clothing they have and be chronic outfit repeaters (a great label in my book). If we start loving and living with what we already have and stop our urge to revamp our wardrobe every couple of months, we can make a huge dent in the demand for fast fashion and clothing in general. However, in order for most people to start truly loving and valuing their clothes, there would have to be some major shifts within society. People will need to stop feeling as if their self worth comes from their appearance, and brands will need to stop marketing towards vulnerable young women in a way that makes them feel insecure if they don’t adopt the latest trends.

If you’re interested in learning more about the fast fashion industry, we recommend watching the documentary “The True Cost”.


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Maddie Vos

is in charge of maintaining the Zero Waste Club community through regular video content. A keen videographer, she wants to spread the message of sustainability to the masses. She currently is living and working in London, and enjoys yoga and art in her free time.

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Kayla Guilliams

is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.