Eco update – Toiletries, cleaning products, ‘personal’ hygiene and other stuff

It feels like we’ve not made much progress in our quest to be a more sustainable household since I wrote my initial blog post on the topic. But I’ve had to remind myself that we’re playing a long game here and bedding in good habits is as big a success as any. Plus, when I really reflect, we have made some good steps forward. This post has turned out longer than I intended but I really want to capture all the highs and lows of our attempts to change the way we live!

Dry food and snacks

Over the last few months, I have been really trying to change the way we shop and eat. We haven’t been able to eliminate plastic for staples such as pasta etc (there aren’t any bring-your-own-bag shops in close vicinity to us) but we have tried to buy bigger (so the biggest bags of rice and good pasta we can find) and also reduce our use of pre-packed snacks. Especially individual snacks.

Little H has taken the biggest hit here. Through no fault of her own, she had got used to routinely having pre-packed kiddie snacks readily available in the cupboard. We used those up and now she generally only has Bear YoYos and a few Organix Goodie Bars available. The rest of the time she’ll have snacks of crackers, dried fruit or even more fresh fruit and vegetables than she used to have before. Sam and I have switched to larger bags of crunchy snacks we buy where possible; we don’t eat loads by any means. My one main weakness though is breadsticks and I have yet to find these without plastic because, I guess, it’s needed to keep them fresh.

Another way I have been trying to remove packaging is by making more food and snacks from scratch at home. I have always been a lover of cooking and baking. In recent years, the only thing which has hindered me has been time. But on days when it’s just Little Z and I, I am able to take some time to bake and cook during her naps. When Little H is at home, I am trying to involve her in the “making” a bit more. Although, I do have to fend off attempts to lick the bowl before we’ve finished!

The focus for the coming month is to investigate buying more pantry produce in bulk online. I have been looking at Plastic Free Pantry and want to give them a try. It looks like I can a wide range of foods from there so I might be able to get some new and interesting snacks to fill up the Kilner jars.

The other thing I have been doing is taking beeswax wraps to the supermarket so I can buy cheese at cheese counter. I have had mixed success with this though. Sam isn’t keen – I think he might think it makes the cheese taste odd; it doesn’t but I’ve been making extra sure the wraps are clean. I’ve found I can only buy cheese this way reliably from Waitrose. Our local Sainsbury’s seems to insist on pre-wrapping the cheese from their cheese counter. Which surely defeats the point?!

Milk and yoghurt

This the most disappointing part of the last few weeks. I was really excited to start with milk deliveries. However, after a week and 4 deliveries from Milk & More, I had to cancel our subscription. Every single order had something missing or wrong. We’d also been trying jars of yoghurt but two of the 4 we had during that time were not right – the yoghurt was fizzy and inedible.

I have identified a couple of alternative options which I need to look into. I’ve not rushed into trying them after the upset of the first try. They seem to follow a more conventional approach where you call to order which is a little less convenient but if I can find one that works then it’ll be worth the effort!

Yoghurt remained a bit of a challenge – we go through a lot and we can only buy tubs that we will eat within 3 days. But, Sam’s mum has lent us a yoghurt maker that she had at home. Apparently it’s really simple and only needs a small amount of yoghurt and milk to produce more. So this is something I want to try in the next few days. If it works well, it could be a game changer for us!

Toiletries

We’ve almost used up all our old plastic cotton buds and from now we’ll be using Bamboo cotton buds which can be composted. We’ve also been using Geoorganics dental floss. Initially Sam wasn’t sure but he was quickly converted because it’s a thicker floss and gives a really good clean.

I’d hoped to have been trying out my new shampoo bar by now. But there were some delays with the delivery. It should arrive this week though.

The biggest development here though is I have invested in some reusable sanitary products to try. They aren’t a cheap investment and, much like when I got Little Z’s nappies, I’m not sure what will work for me. So I have got a pack of 4 different sized pads. I have also got a cup too, which is the thing I am a little more nervous about using. So many use these things successfully though so I just need to take my time and give them a try.

Housework

A couple of positive developments in this area, the first being that I have started making some cleaning products of my own. I purchased the book ‘Fresh Clean Home’ by Wendy from the Moral Fibres blog. Whilst it’s possible to make a lot of cleaners just out of vinegar combinations, I wanted some more vinegar free alternatives. Wendy has a lot of tried and tested recipes. So far I have made a shower shine, replacing a plastic bottle shop-bought version we used to buy every couple of months. I have made some multi-purpose bathroom cleaner which smells great and I feel much happier about using where the girls wash. And finally I made some toilet tablets which are really very good. One of our toilets is really limescaled up and looks grubby even though it’s not. I’ve used a few of these tablets and they are slowly eating away at it!

Sam also invested in a new airer for the utility room ceiling. This little part of our house gets very warm because it’s where the boiler is and it’s right next to the kitchen. It’s also not somewhere we hang-out much (obviously) so having laundry hanging from the ceiling isn’t too infuriating. It’s allowed us to do a few things:

  1. Stop having an airer loaded with nappies sat in the dining room continually with the contents changing every two days.
  2. Dry the nappies quicker in the warmth of the utility room.
  3. Reduce our use of the tumble dryer to ‘finish off’ the nappies or dry other clothes because the airer is in use. We still make use of the tumbler dryer because, let’s face it with two small kids and lots and lots of little clothes, sometimes I need to get stuff dry quickly or get it out the way for my sanity. But we have a seen a significant reduction in use since Sam installed this simple addition!

Successes so far:

  • Have started using some homemade cleaning products.
  • Big reduction in pre-packed snacks, especially individually packaged ones.
  • Have acquired a yoghurt maker which brings a lot of potential…
  • Complete household adoption of the eco-friendly floss and cotton buds.
  • Reduced use of tumble dryer whilst also achieving better winter nappy-drying times!

Immediate areas of focus:

  • Placing an order with Plastic Free Pantry.
  • Contacting an alternative milk service.
  • Trying the yoghurt maker!
  • Trying my new shampoo bar.
  • Give the reusable sanitary products a bash when it’s that ‘time’.
  • How to make our Christmas low impact.
  • Planning Little H’s 4th birthday party and trying to make it plastic free.

Long term focus:

  • Swapping the majority of our cleaning products to home made as we start to run out of what we have.
  • Fruit and vegetable growing plan for next spring – something compact and easy to maintain with young kids. But that will give us the best crop in return.
  • Musing if / where I can set-up a succ compost heap.

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About Me

About Me

Hello, I'm Angela. I'm Mum to two small people (3 & 0). I'm a Techie, Gardener, cake lover and tea addict. I'm trying to get our family to live a more sustainable life. I also have far too many opinions...hence the blog. You can read more about me here. You can also follow me on Twitter so you never miss a post. Hope you enjoy reading!

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