Plastic washed up on Aberlady Bay, Midlothian

I bang on about my frustration with plastic all the time. It’s great but it’s also absolutely awful, so today let’s talk about why plastic is so bad.

Look around right now. How many items can you spot that contain plastic? It’s an incredibly versatile material, which is precisely how it found it’s way into our homes and lives. There are things I love that are made from plastic; my record player and records being one big thing, the cases video games come in, the Playstation itself, my camera, the keys I’m typing on right now.

Plastic makes our lives easier, especially now that it’s everywhere. While it might make life easier for us, it kind of isn’t at the same time because it’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for us. “How can my phone be so bad for the environment?” you might wonder, so let’s explore some of the reasons why plastic is so bad.

Side note: read Blood & Earth by Kevin Bales to discover other reasons why technology can be bad for the environment and people.

 

Single-use plastic pollution

Approximately 50% of plastics are made into a single-use item. What?

Single-use plastic is my biggest plastic-based frustration (it’s always fun to rate and categorise your frustrations). I’m sure Daz is beginning to dread going to the supermarket with me because it always involves a lot of “this doesn’t need to be wrapped in plastic!” “Why is this non-recyclable plastic?!” “I’m writing Tesco an angry email when I get home.” Side note; I did and their response about their use of non-recyclable packaging was disappointing. They’re “working hard to make sure even more of our packaging is recyclable.”

There are few things we honestly need to use once and throw away. In fact, now that I’m trying to think about something that truly needs to be single-use, I can’t think of anything. Maybe something surgical? There is sterilising equipment, though, so? If you think of anything, I want to hear about it.

I’m not sure how we ended up putting our convenience over the well-being of ourselves, wildlife, and the planet. But it happened, and we can stop it. We don’t need single-use plastic bags. We don’t need single-use straws; if you want a straw, get a reusable glass, bamboo, or stainless steel one. We don’t need food to come in plastic containers which are non-recyclable. We very rarely need water in plastic bottles. Sure, sometimes you forget your travel bottle but we certainly don’t need to be consuming it in the quantities that we are. In 2015, Americans brought over 88 billion half-litre bottles of water. In a year. And that’s one country.

The problem with single-use plastic is that 1) it’s resource intensive to manufacture (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and 2) it’s very polluting.

Have you heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? I know, you probably wish you hadn’t. This is where some of our rubbish ends up, and sadly it isn’t the only garbage patch. I recently heard about a really interesting campaign between LAD Bible (yes, that LAD Bible) and Plastic Oceans Foundation. Their theory was that if they can get the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to be accepted by the UN as a country (called Trash Isles) then something will have to be done about the pollution. It’s unlikely to be accepted as a country but a brilliant way to get people talking about the issue of plastic pollution.

It doesn’t end with plastic floating around our oceans. It’s washing up on beautiful beaches and uninhabited islands. It’s affecting and killing marine animals in awful ways. Turtles inhale straws. They’re trapped, entangled, or choked by it. They eat it because they think it’s food and it blocks their digestive systems and kills them.

Sadly, that isn’t the end of the plastic pollution story either. Just when we thought we’d got rid of it, it comes back to haunt us like yet another Fast & Furious movie. If we eat animals that have consumed microplastics, we’re also eating plastic. As we discussed in my blog post about plastic in our drinking water, plastic doesn’t fully break down and ends up in our tap water. Even if you don’t eat seafood, you’re consuming plastic straight out the tap.

 

Resource-intensive to produce

We know that fossil fuels are not renewable sources of energy. If we want to talk about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we need to talk about plastic too.

Synthetic plastics can be made from fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, or natural gas. 4% of the world’s oil and gas is used as feedstock for plastic, and an extra 3 – 4% is needed to produce the energy to make it into plastic.

As well as using up to 8% of the world’s oil and gas, the extraction of these resources can be incredibly damaging to the environment. Most people remember the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. And, maybe one or two big oil spills make the news every year but that doesn’t mean they’re the only oil spills. They’re going on all the time, all over the world; we just don’t hear about all of them. They’re incredibly damaging to the environment and the effects are long-lasting.

As well as taking up non-renewable resources, plastic requires a lot of water to make. It takes 24 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic. Yes, there are other materials which require much more water to produce. Shouldn’t we be doing our best to reduce the amount of water we’re wasting wherever we can by skipping plastic as much as possible?

 

It doesn’t degrade

One of the reasons plastic is so bad is because it does not degrade. Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of itself, so it never really goes away. As evidenced by it ending up in 83% of the world’s tap water, delicious.

There is no straightforward answer to “how long does it take plastic to fully decompose?” Estimates range from 10 – 1000s of years, depending on what it is. But some scientists fear plastic never fully degrades, it just keeps breaking down into smaller pieces of itself. Maybe a plastic bag appears to have degraded after 10s of years but it doesn’t mean it’s actually gone. It will have broken down into microplastics (plastic smaller than 5mm) and could end up anywhere.

 

It doesn’t all get recycled

Ok, so perhaps you’re having similar thoughts to me a couple of years back right now; “if I’m separating my rubbish and recycling so much plastic, why is it causing such a big pollution problem?” That makes sense, right? We’re constantly told to recycle plastic so why is plastic pollution such a big deal?

  1. Not everyone recycles. Over the past month or so, when people have asked me about what I’m studying, I’ve ended up in conversations about how we’re destroying the planet. Sometimes we get to talking about rubbish and pollution, and I’m surprised that not everyone recycles. To me that seems so alien, but some people just don’t do it.
  2. Not all plastic that you recycle gets recycled. There are so many different kinds of plastic that it’s very labour intensive to separate them. When you add that to having to remove wrappers and stickers, sometimes companies can’t be bothered and it ends up in landfill. While you might have done your part for the environment, you might be being let down further down the chain.

When plastic actually does get recycled it can end up being shipped all over the world before becoming something new. That’s hardly a surprise given that I could sit here in my dressing gown right now and order something from the other side of the world in the click of a few buttons. In a week or two, I’ll end up missing the postie and have to collect it from the sweltering post office. That parcel will have travelled thousands of miles to reach me and I won’t bat an eyelid at that. If we’re being very pernickety, we’d say it’s not great that it gets shipped everywhere; adding more carbon dioxide to the planet. On the other hand, it’s great that it can be recycled.

 

Chemicals that damage our health  

It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for wildlife, and hey, plastic is bad for us too. Some of the chemicals in plastic can be absorbed by our bodies and impact our hormones and cause health issues. It’s hard to nail down exactly which chemicals in plastics are causing which issues. However, researchers suspect the chemicals in plastics can cause a number of issues.

 

What’s the solution?

I don’t know what the solution is. Plastic is so versatile and heavily ingrained in our lifestyles; it’s hard to imagine a world without it. We don’t have to know what the end solution is to make a difference, though. We can begin by quitting single-use plastic, reducing our plastic consumption as much as possible, recycling plastic and hoping it is actually being recycled, supporting companies that use recycled plastic packaging, and using alternative materials.

Be careful with biodegradable plastics because it’s not as simple as you think. It’s easy to think all you need to do is throw it away and it will biodegrade by itself. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Certain conditions are needed for biodegradable plastic to degrade, and those conditions don’t exist in landfill sites. If they do, the plastic will end up releasing methane, which isn’t great for the environment either.

I am pretty cynical in that I don’t expect my current government to live up to my expectations of what they should be doing in regards to the environment. (Hey, they don’t live up to our expectations for the NHS so…) While I believe it’s equally up to you and me, the private sector, and our governments to make a change, I think the public have to force it in countries where the environment isn’t a priority.

What does that mean? It sounds like a lot of legwork, right? Maybe it is. And let’s be honest, we’re all so busy that we need things to be made easier for us. So, that’s where I can help. Below, I’ve got a list of a few plastic-free alternatives and some blogs I’ve found really helpful for reducing my plastic consumption.

You don’t have to make all these changes overnight. Do whatever works best for you and your life; small changes are better than no changes.

 

Plastic-free alternatives

When I first decided to reduce my plastic consumption I felt overwhelmed. So many things contain plastic, how do I start to replace those things? And what should I start with? I don’t suggest throwing everything plastic out at once; start slowly and replace things when they break.

The links below are either things I’ve used and recommend, or things I am looking to buy when I replace something.

  • Wooden toothbrushes look so much cooler than plastic toothbrushes
  • Travel mugs and water bottles instead of plastic bottles and takeaway cups
  • Wooden cutlery instead of plastic cutlery
  • Instead of disposal straws, try out glass, stainless steel, or wood
  • Metal or glass tupperware instead of plastic
  • Fabric produce bags for buying loose produce
  • Quit shaving your legs with plastic, and get a snazzy safety razor
  • Switch to wooden dish brushes
  • Avoid plastic microbeads in cosmetics – they have been banned in the UK for “rinse off” cosmetics like toothpaste and face scrub, but not “leave-on” products like makeup or sunscreen, which seems odd because that’s going to get washed off too…

 

Extra reading

If you want to read up some more, here are a few things I found really interesting while researching this blog post & things I’ve read recently

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Tofino from Cox Bay lookout

Long Beach, Tofino

Two days in Tofino is absolutely nowhere near enough to do everything the cosy, windswept little town has to offer. However, I can promise that being in Tofino is like slipping into the comfiest PJs ever and you will emerge three days later feeling so refreshed and relaxed - even if you pack your days full of adventures.

The windswept town is almost half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island, just off the coast of Vancouver. Tofino is almost surrounded by the Pacific ocean, and interestingly is the end of the Trans-Canada Highway. There's plenty to do in this surfers paradise, from watersports, wildlife watching, hiking, eating, and relaxing. 

 

Tofino harbour

Tofino

Tofino is a small town on the west side of Vancouver Island at the end of highway 4. With only one road connecting it to the outside world, it feels so peaceful and cosy. If you're looking for a destination that makes you feel a million miles away from chaos and allows you to reconnect with that wild feeling, you need to go to Tofino. In the summer, Tofino attracts hikers, nature lovers, and surfers. In the winter, it attracts storm watchers.

It's no coincidence that the local magazine is called "Tofino Time". Life slows down to half pace as soon as you enter the town. The vibe is more chill than Shaggy & Scooby Doo. The only place people seem to be in a rush to get to the is the beach, with good reason because the surf is good and the views are even better. I'm not kidding, we saw so many people running to the beach with their surfboards under their arms, like they had an insatiable need to surf. We even saw a guy managing to ride a bike and hold his surfboard at the same time - I have no idea how he did it. I suspect that if I tried, it would involve a lot of face-planting the floor.

 

What to do - how to spend two days in Tofino

Two days isn't much time at all. Don't pack your schedule too tight because you're going to want time to relax and once you start exploring beaches and covers, you'll soon run out of time.

 

Take a wildlife tour

There is no shortage of wildlife to be seen around Tofino, whether it's whales, birds, bears, seals, or something else. I think you would have to have a whole load of bad luck and bad timing on your side if you didn't see anything.

Several companies in Tofino and Ucluelet offer boat or air wildlife tours. We went whale watching with Jamie's Whaling Station and had a great time spotting whales, sea otters, and taking in Clayoquot Sound, and learning about the area. We really enjoyed their tour and would definitely recommend them - next time we want to do their bear watching tour.

Spotting a whale on a whale watching tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Seeing a sea otter on a boat tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Wildlife spotting on your own 

As I said, I think you'd have to be pretty unlucky to not see something. Spent some time on beaches and you might end up seeing something wonderful. We followed the Tonquin Trail from the community centre down to Tonquin beach and spotted whales out in the bay, and saw a bald eagle chilling on a rock.

Pay respect to signs informing you that beaches are closed to humans after dark to allow wildlife to feed. And never forget that you are the stranger in another animal's territory. Make sure you don't leave any litter or food around that may attract wildlife, carry bear spray, and know what to do if you encounter a bear, wolf, or mountain lion.

I recently read a PhD thesis which commented that a big chunk of people surveyed were entering into areas that had bears and they didn't know what to do if they encountered one. (There are no stats as that was an observation she made, not actually part of her research.)

A Bald Eagle at Tonquin Beach, Tofino

 

Explore beaches

The beaches around Tofino are some of the most beautiful beaches either of us had ever seen. They're vast, windswept, and you can walk between some of them at low tide.

We spent hours exploring beaches, climbing up rocks for views, looking for rock pools and taking in where we were. We even discovered a beach called Rosie Beach, which had a beautiful house perched on the edge of it. It was pretty fun to imagine what it would be like to live there and look out your window to the sea every day.

Daz at Long Beach

Cox Bay, Tofino

Enjoying the view on Cox Bay, Tofino

 

Rainforest A trail in Tofino

Hiking

There's no shortage of hiking trails around Tofino. Here are some of the ones we did:

  • Tonquin Trail - a short trail from Tofino's community centre down to Tonquin Beach. 
  • Rainforest A & B - two short loop trails, each one starting at difference sides of the highway. It's interesting to note the comparison between the rainforest you walk through in both of these trails. Rainforest A is older, and Rainforest B has a younger bit at the start. This trail is perfect if it's raining because the trees keep you pretty well sheltered from the rain. It's a really ground experience to be surrounded by so many ancient trees. 
  • The Lighthouse Loop - a 2.6km trail that forms part of the Wild Pacific Trail, and starts in Ucluelet. It's a wonderful trail for seeing the power of the waves against the rocks, and the lighthouse is well worth seeing. 

There are many more trails around and we found Tofino Trails to be really helpful when planning what we were going to do. If you fancy going further afield, the Lone Cone trail looks like it provides rewarding views over Clayoquot Sound. As it involves getting a water taxi to Meares Island, doing that hike will probably take up the majority of your day. This hike is definitely on our list of things to do when we return. 

 

Surfing or paddleboarding

Tofino is a surfers paradise. Unfortunately we didn’t have chance to go surfing but we saw loads of people trying it out for the first time, and total pros. You won't struggle to find a company who can teach you to surf or paddleboard, and it's something we want to try out next time.

amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet, down the road from Tofino

View from the Lighthouse Loop, in Ucluelet

Where to stay in Tofino

Daz and I stayed at Green Point Campground, just outside Tofino, on the edge of Long Beach. It's a Parks Canada owned campsite which can be booked through their website. It cost us $107.90 CAD (around £65) for three nights with a fire permit, and fire wood can be brought on site. All of the Parks Canada campsites we've stayed at were really nice, clean, had good facilities but this one was even more special. Green Point Campground has a private trail down to Long Beach, and it's possible to pick a pitch with ocean views. 

We stayed in pitch 67, which had views through the trees over the ocean. I'm not sure if any of the pitches actually have views of the beach itself. When you book through the Parks Canada website, you can click on all of the pitches and see photos of the pitch, some of them clearly show ocean views. I'm not sure where else you're going to get ocean views for $22 per night.

There are other campsites around Tofino, which vary in price. For example, at Bella Pacifica you can camp on the beach but it is more expensive than the Parks Canada site. 

In Tofino, you can find B&B's, apartments, inns, and lodges. I always recommend AirBnB because  we love it so much. You can always find something that fits your budget and needs. If we aren't camping, AirBnB is our go-to.

There is also an eco-lodge at Tofino's Botanical Garden if you're looking for accommodation that takes care of the environment. That said, we felt a lot of places we visited were eco-friendly and I think that's to do with the close connection the town has with nature and wildlife. 

Tofino harbour in the rain

Where to eat in Tofino

Tofino has a brilliant food scene, and you'll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat. We loved the Common Loaf Bakery; it had amazing sandwiches, and we keep thinking about their peasant bread. Sobo is a wonderful little restaurant, with a great story about how it started out as a food truck and grew into a popular restaurant. Wolf In The Fog is a popular restaurant; we didn't eat there but have heard plenty of good reviews and it looks really nice.

Just outside Tofino there's a small group of eateries, including TacoFino, Chocolate Tofino, and Tofitan Cafe. Further down the Pacific Rim Highway is Jamie's Rainforest Inn which does a really nice breakfast. We went there on a rainy morning to relax and plan the rest of our day. 

The Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Tofino

Reaching Tofino

Despite there only being one road in and out of Tofino, it's really easy to get to. The beautiful little town is on the west side of Vancouver Island, which you can get to by ferry, plane, or helicopter.If you're flying, you can fly from Vancouver Intl, Seattle-Tacoma Intl, Victoria Intl, Nanaimo airport, or Comox Valley airport.

From Victoria, Tofino is 317km away via the 1 to Nanaimo, the 19, and then follow the 4 to the end of the road. You'll go through a few towns on the way, so there's places to stop off for fuel, food, and Timmy's! The scenery is wonderful round there, and it's well worth stopping off by the side of a lake for your lunch and to stretch your legs. 

The 4 is the only route in and out of Tofino, so I recommend keeping an eye on the road and road conditions on the Driving BC website. A few hours after we left Tofino, we heard that an accident had shut the 4 for a few hours. If there's going to be heavy rain, I recommend leaving extra time to get in or out of Tofino because the roads can feel very daunting in heavy rain and you won't be doing the speed limit. 

The walk down to Chesterman Beach, Tofino

We enjoyed our two days in Tofino even more than we imagined we would. It's hard to explain exactly how relaxed and refreshed we felt after two packed days. After our time in Tofino, we drove across to spend a few days in Vancouver. I've gotta tell you, Vancouver was a stark contrast between Tofino and it definitely took us a minute to adjust to a big city. 

Have you ever been to Tofino? If you have any questions, drop me a comment or get in touch 🙂 

How to spend 2 days in Tofino

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Share The Love - September 2017

Are you fed up of hearing that autumn is finally here yet? Ok, I won’t say it – but I’m definitely thinking it and I’m really excited about it.

September was our first full month living in Edinburgh, and it’s been a great month. We’re getting our bearings, are loving living here, work is good, and my masters is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. NB: we’re fudging the planet big time and need to stop being dicks to it.

In September, I decided to give being fully vegan another go and it’s going really well so far. We’ve made some delicious vegan food, like soup and butternut squash “mac n cheese”. 

 

Blog – What Is Maria

I found Maria’s blog towards the end of September and it fast became a favourite. Maria covers a range of topics, such as vegan food and recipes, anxiety, and overcoming exercise addiction to name a few.

What drew me to her blog was how absolutely honest it feels. It feels like you’re talking to her in person. She isn’t trying to be someone else at all. My favourite blog post from September was her top 10 vegan pantry essentials.

 

Links

 

Listening

September was an amazing month for new music.

 

Watching

Our TV signal is rubbish where we live, so Daz and I have been watching a lot of Friends re-runs and documentaries on Netflix / iPlayer. We really enjoyed BBC’s Life at the Extreme, Chasing Coral (it’s a hard watch), and being the Canadaphiles we are, we chuckled hard at Being Canadian.

Like most of the UK, we are pretty undecided on our feelings towards Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off. On one hand, it’s a baking show; what isn’t to love. On the other hand, it belongs on BBC and WHERE’S IS MARY BERRY?! At least it isn’t as bad as the reboot of Top Gear.

 

Popular posts on Girl In Awe

 

What did you enjoy in September?

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Fruit and veg stall - zero waste

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying hard to reduce my waste significantly and move towards zero waste.

I have always strived to recycle and thought I was pretty good at living fairly sustainably. The more I learn about zero waste and being sustainable, the more I realise there’s still a lot more I can do. Daz and I certainly don’t have a zero waste household, we are slowly reducing the amount of rubbish we send to landfill though. Moving house created a whole load of rubbish and we did donate or sell whatever we could, and only send to landfill what we had to.

Rubbish and waste is something we all have in our homes and trying to reduce it can seem really daunting. We’ve been trying to move towards zero waste for a few months now, so I wanted to share some of the biggest things we’ve learned.

 

What is zero waste?

If this is the first time you’ve heard of zero waste, here’s a brief introduction for you. The basic idea is that you produce no waste. Nothing in your refuse bin. Nothing. Nada. Zero waste is bigger than not producing waste though, it’s about buying products and food with less packaging, reducing the amount of plastic and waste you bring into your home, buying more thoughtfully and so much more.

 

What our zero waste journey has taught us so far

Over the past few months we have noticed a decrease in how full our refuse bin is come collection day. Up here in Edinburgh, in addition to a general waste bin and recycling bin, they also have food waste caddys and a glass recycling box. That means our recycling bin is pretty much plastic, paper, and cans. And boy, is there a lot of plastic. Too much plastic. 

 

Packaging – y u no use eco-friendly packaging?

My biggest recycling peeve is packaging. I think Daz kind of dreads going shopping with me because I go off on a rant every time I see “not currently recyclable” on packaging. There are so many recyclable and biodegradable packaging options that I cannot comprehend why a manufacturer would choose to use something that isn’t recyclable. Actually, I can; I suspect it’s to do with money.

When it comes to skincare, cosmetics, and vegan / dairy free food items, it’s really easy to find products in minimalist and recyclable packaging. The brand is well aware of their impact on the environment and usually uses packaging which is environmentally friendly.

It’s when you come to other items or food products that aren’t associated with the environment or special dietary needs that it gets trickier. It’s not impossible, but it does mean you might have to do some research and maybe stop buying a product you loved. If that’s the case though, I would definitely recommend emailing them and asking why they’re using non-recyclable packaging. You might think that one email might not make a difference, but if enough people tell a company they aren’t buying their products because of their packaging choices they will make a change.

A Plastic Planet are running a really interesting campaign and are trying to encourage supermarkets to offer a plastic free aisle. How wonderful would that be?

 

Plastic bags – learn to juggle or forward plan

By this point, I think we can all agree that plastic bags are bad. I’m slowly getting better at remembering to take reusable bags to the supermarket with me. Daz is much better than me, and remembers to keep some in the car.

 

Chemicals & microbeads

I stopped buying products with microbeads in last year when I read about how rubbish (excuse the pun) they are for the environment and marine life. Microbeads are used in a lot of exfoliating cosmetics and are small plastic balls that are absolutely pointless because there are so many natural exfoliants, like; rice, charcoal, coffee, sugar, oats, bamboo, walnut shells, the list is very long.

Being a science student I have always enjoyed reading the ingredients list on products, and it always scares me when I see something and think “hmmm, I feel like I used that in the lab and needed to wear gloves…” The long and short of it is that harmful and unnecessary products are causing damage in two ways.

  1. Your body is absorbing all those nasties, and they’re not good for you.
  2. All those nasties are ending up in the water supply when they get washed down the drain.

I’m sure they’re also causing damage in other ways as well, such as the manufacturing process. I’ve not really had to buy many skincare products recently but when I do I’m going for natural and sustainable products. It is my goal to now only buy natural and sustainable products; which means saying “bye bye” to some LUSH stuff. Le sigh. Since the start of the year, I think the only places I’ve purchased skin / hair care and beauty products from are Holland & Barrett , 100% Pure, and Antipodes

If you want to learn more about being eco-friendly in your bathroom, check out my updated 8 tips for being more eco-friendly in the bathroom

 

Don’t just throw stuff out

While we were relocating, we noticed there are a load of things we didn’t use or need. Some of it we sold on eBay, a load of it was donated or given to friends, and what was of no use went to the tip. 

 

Forward planning

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to plan. Living in Edinburgh means we have access to a couple of stores that have bulk options – something we definitely didn’t have before. We haven’t needed to use them yet because we have so much flour, sugar, and oats, it’s ridiculous. At some point soon we’ll get through them all and I’m looking forward to bulk buying – that’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

  • By forward planning, we reduce our food waste by buying what we need and using things up.
  • I remember to take some suitable bags for putting loose produce in.
  • I can go a little out of my way to get something without packaging or with packaging that’s actually recyclable.  

 

We have a long way to go on our quest for zero waste, and maybe we won’t ever truly reach zero. We’re really happy with where we’re at so far. It was bin day a couple of days ago and our waste bin was less than half full.

If you want to cut down on your waste to landfill, here are a few blog posts that I found helpful:

 

If you’ve got any tips or want to share a useful blog post / blog, please do 🙂

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8 ways to be more eco-friendly in the bathroom

One of my ongoing goals is to be more eco-friendly, which means buying products with less wasteful packaging, products that last longer, products that don’t harm the environment, or contain toxins.

I feel like more and more people are sharing similar goals of being more eco-friendly. Knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming and baffling.

This blog post was first published last February and I’ve learned so much since then, so I wanted to update the post to share some more eco-friendly awesomeness with you.

 

Get rid of single use products

Rid your bathroom of face wipes, cotton pads and cotton balls, and replace them with long-lasting washable and reusable versions. If you’re feeling particularly crafty there are even tutorials for making your own face scrubbies.

I have a serious issue with plastic waste. It doesn’t degrade and it pollutes every inch of our planet; it litters forest trails, is destroying the ocean, and is in our drinking water. A photographer recently shared this saddening image of a seahorse holding onto a cotton bud. This should not be happening. 

 

Never buy a plastic toothbrush again

Every plastic toothbrush that has ever existed is still sitting there in landfill. That shiz has not biodegraded. Get yourself a wooden toothbrush; it’s exactly the same, only it won’t sit in landfill in and haunt the planet for years to come. If you’re looking for recommendations, we have used Hydrophil and Humble Brush

 

Toothpaste

When I started this journey, toothpaste was perhaps the most bewildering thing for me. Why would toothpaste contain toxins? That did not compute for me.

A quick search online will produce more natural toothpastes, toothpowders and even recipes for making your own toothpastes and powders. As for personal recommendations, I really liked Ecodenta’s charcoal toothpaste. I’m currently trying out toothpowder from The Clay Cure. It’s definitely messier but I feel that it cleans my teeth just as well as toothpaste; whatever works best for you though.

FabLittleBag

FabLittleBag

Sanitary products

We’ve got to talk about it. I was surprised to learn that 60% of tampon users in the UK flush tampons down the toilet. This causes blockages in sewers and can lead to them ending up in rivers and oceans. On top of that, your “standard” tampons and sanitary towels contain a horrendous cocktail of chemicals, including bleach.

I don’t know about you, but I have never considered the need to stick a load of chemicals in my insides. No ta.

Luckily, there are eco-friendly alternatives such as fabric sanitary towels or menstrual cups. While the initial cost is probably more than you would spend on your period in two or three months, you will save money in the long run because you won’t have to repurchase each month.

If you’re too squeamish or grossed out by the thought of getting a bit too hands on or washing sanitary towels out, look for organic cotton products, with biodegradable packaging. And if you’ve been flushing your sanitary products, stop. Should you find yourself worrying about what to do in public toilets without bins, FabLittleBag’s* oxo-biodegradable bags are easy to use and are discreet so you can slip it in the bin outside the stall.

 

Eco-friendly & toxin-free skincare and cosmetics

If your Pinterest page is anything like mine, you don’t have to look hard to find recipes for DIY skincare and makeup.

Unfortunately, our skincare and cosmetic products can be bad for us and the environment due to the array of toxins inside them. I could write an entire blog post on the toxins in skincare and cosmetics (and maybe I will?); if you’re interested in learning more I highly recommend reading There’s Lead In Your Lipstick by Gill Deacon. It’s an eye-opening and seriously informative read that will change the way you look at the contents of your makeup drawer.

There’s good news though! You can make your own skincare and cosmetic products, there are so many recipes floating around the internet, and it’s really fun to make things yourself. There are also a load of companies who sell eco-friendly and people-friendly products. A few of my favourites are;

Toilet roll

Trying to buy eco-friendly toilet roll is one of the biggest headaches of my shopping trip. Primarily because everything seems to come wrapped in non-recyclable plastic packaging. Daz came home from the supermarket the other day and told me he’d spent ages squishing toilet roll packaging in Tesco trying to figure out which wrapping was recyclable. The Padawan is learning. 

Actually finding eco-friendly toilet paper isn’t that hard though, it’s the packaging that’s the issue. Look for recycled toilet roll with the FSC logo and paper made without dyes. Mindful Mum has a really good UK-specific guide for buying more eco-friendly toilet paper.

 

Eco-friendly cleaning products

I actually like cleaning, what I don’t like is the stench of cleaning products lingering in the back of my throat for hours, unnecessary harsh chemicals, and warning signs all over the bottles. You just don’t need it.

If you live in the UK, you might well remember Kim & Aggie’s How Clean Is Your House and their obsession with baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice, and that’s because it works. A quick search on Pinterest for DIY bathroom cleaners will give you plenty of inspiration and recipes.

I’m yet to actually make my own cleaning products because I can buy eco-friendly cleaning products fairly easily. The two cleaning brands we use in our house at Method and Ecover. You can find both in Tesco and Asda (I think I’ve seen them in Sainsburys too) and they work just as well as the ones full of harsh chemicals.

 

Use less energy and water in the bathroom

Most new toilets are low-flow. You can also install low-flow showerheads, cut down on the time spent in the shower, turn the tap off when you’re not using it, switch to LED lightbulbs, and fix any drips.

 

Have you got any tips for being more eco friendly in the bathroom?

*PR sample – this does not affect or sway my opinion because I cannot be bought! (This was from the original post in 2016.)

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Avalanche at Plain of Six Glaciers

Lake Louise from Plain of Six Glaciers

The plain of the six glaciers trail has everything you want in a hike; adorable wildlife, mountains, snow, an azure lake, glaciers, avalanches, and vegetarian chilli. 

The 14km trail (return) begins at the edge of Lake Louise, outside the Fairmont hotel. While the lake looks absolutely packed in that spot, the crowds thin out quickly. A good chunk of visitors are there just to see the lake and have a little wander. We have been to Lake Louise in September and June, so neither are full-on peak times but we didn't find the trails to be jam-packed or unbearable. As soon as you begin walking down the side of the lake, you notice a huge difference. The further you get from the hotel, the quieter it is.  

If you do want to avoid the crowds and feel like you truly have the place to yourself then aim to arrive well before 9am. Save

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Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier

View towards the Victoria Glacier

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I first heard about the plain of the six glaciers trail on Brittany's Adventures. We saw it last autumn when we were beginning to plan our summer trip to Canada and it was high up our list of things to do in the Banff / Lake Louise area. We did the Lake Agnes teahouse trail the first time and enjoyed it (though we felt super unfit) and wanted to see the tea house at the top of the plain of the six glaciers trail. Plus, the views from the top of the trail looked incredible.

Overall, the hike took us about five hours, though maybe a little bit longer because we had a delicious chilli at the teahouse - which I will fangirl about more later.

Beach at the end of Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the end of Lake Louise

The trail follows Lake Louise right to the other end, where you will find a pretty sandy looking beach. I was quite surprised to see it to be honest, a beach was perhaps the last thing I was expecting to see. You're also going to see a lot of adorable ground squirrels who are pretty good at posing / begging for food.

Once you've passed the end of the lake, the real work begins. It is not the steepest hike I've ever done, but it is going to leave you a little out of breath. Especially if there's patches of snow and remnants of avalanches about which you need to navigate without falling over. We didn't take any hiking poles, but if you have any and you're visiting when there might be snow about, they're probably going to be useful.

Avalanche remains on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

Mount Lefroy Plain of Six Glaciers

As you get closer to the teahouse, the Victoria Glacier comes into view and it is worth feeling out of breath and sweaty for. At the top of this part of the trail, there's an information board which names the peaks and glaciers you can see. One area is aptly called Death Trap due to avalanches.

From here you can head to the teahouse and toilets or carry on another 1.2km (I think, I can't fact check it anywhere now - it's definitely not more than 2km anyway) to the very end of the trail. However, there are signs up warning that that section of the trail isn't maintained and you'll see why if you decide to reach the end. For the most part, the last bit is absolutely fine. It's the last little bit where you're on very fine kinda gravel on a steep slope.

Victoria Glacier and Death Trap from Plain of Six Glaciers trail

The Victoria Glacier

I am not a person with excellent balance. Especially when it comes to getting down things. Daz calls me a "shit cat" because if I were a cat, I would forever be stuck in trees. My owners would have a loyalty card for the Fire Brigade (I'm not sure what that would mean, though.) I can get up anything. Getting down? It's horrendous. Again, walking poles would be useful here but if you have rubbish balance, like me, you aren't really missing out on much by not doing the last few metres. I promise. It is literally the last few metres, so you can get the same view by staying on the raised little path.

After taking in views of the Victoria Glacier, listening to the ice crack, and feeling proud of our efforts, we headed to the tea house. We had the most delicious chilli there; it was unbelievable. I'm still thinking about that chilli three months later. I would go back for that chilli. I mean, I'd go back because I'm obsessed with Canada and the place is beautiful, but that chilli!

The teahouse itself is really interesting because all the supplies have to be flown in or hiked in with the staff. The staff there do five days on, and two days off, and have to hike in and out on the same trail. If you want to visit the teahouse, note that they only take cash and it is only open between mid-June to mid-October, depending on weather.

Avalanche at Plain of Six Glacier

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As we headed back down from the teahouse, we heard a huge cracking noise and turned around to see an avalanche. Neither of us had ever seen one with our own eyes and what struck us the most was the sheer noise of it. We all know avalanches are powerful and not to be taken lightly, but the noise really conveys that. For a moment, everyone on the trail stopped in their tracks and fell silent as we watched in awe.

The sound on the video didn't do the sound of the avalanche justice at all. And I wasn't very on the ball with whipping my phone out because I was stood there staring, completely captivated, so what you're seeing is the end of the avalanche. That said, I still find it pretty cool to rewatch it.

The return was pretty smooth, just a few bits of ice and snow to navigate that had been compacted further by people walking on it all day. Before we knew it we were back at the shore of Lake Louise, where people were everywhere. It was quite a contrast from being up at the glacier, where the lake looked tiny. Being back down there, surrounded by crowds was a bit of a shock.

Before we went, we read reviews of treks to the plain of the six glaciers and most people said it was quite hard. I'm gonna be honest, Daz and I are not the fittest people at all but we didn't find it incredibly hard. Though, we had done Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots the day before and that was steep as, so I think anything was going to feel easier than that.

Don't be put off by seeing people say a hike is hard because it's worth it. You're climbing up a mountain - that ain't easy. That said, you know your own body; if you feel unsafe or out of your comfort zone then turn around.

If you're planning to do the plain of six glaciers trail it's probably going to be the main thing you do that day; what do you do with the rest of the day then? Luckily, there is loads you can do in Lake Louise and Banff:

  • Visit Moraine Lake, aka the best lake in the world. It's really close by and there are a couple of shorter hiking trails around the lake if you fancy some more walking. I recommend the walk to Consolation Lakes. Or you could go kayaking on the lake.
  • You could visit the Fairmont Lake Louise to be nosy at a fancy hotel and have afternoon tea.
  • If you're feeling very fit, you could veer off the plain of the six glaciers trail on the way back and visit the Lake Agnes teahouse.
  • Go paddle boarding or kayaking on Lake Louise.
  • Wander around the town of Lake Louise
  • Take the Lake Louise gondola for more stunning views

What's the best hike you've ever done?

Hiking plain of the six glaciers

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Antipodes Rejoice Moisturiser, Reincarnation Exfoliator, Divine Facial Oil & Dragon Fruit Lipstick

I have known about Antipodes for years; I think I remember seeing some of their products pop up in one of Estee Lalonde’s empties videos (I love those). I was always so tempted but the price put me off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rolling around on a bed of cash or recreating the bath scene from the Look What You Made Me Do video with all my jewels. Since beginning to learn more about ethical and toxin-free products, I am happy to pay more for high quality, organic, ethically sourced ingredients and products.

 

Why did I buy from Antipodes?

I thought it would be interesting to include a section on why I think Antipodes meet my ethical and sustainable requirements.

 

Antipodes Reincarnation Facial Exfoliator

£20.99 for 75ml on LoveLula

I’m about to rattle on a fair bit about how good Antipodes products smell throughout this blog post but this exfoliator smells the best. It has a lovely orange scent which reminds me of those gummy Vitamin C “sweets” I used to have as a kid; it’s kinda making me crave them.

Reincarnation uses jojoba beads for exfoliation which makes it quite a gentle exfoliator; I saw another blogger refer to it more as a polish and I think that’s a pretty good comparison. I use it every morning and use a harsher scrub or exfoliating mask once a week and it’s kept my dry skin at bay pretty well. Combined with having a good moisturiser for the first time in a while and my skin is looking better than it ever has.

You really don’t need to use a lot; the old “pea sized amount” is appropriate here. I’ve had this tube for a little over a month now and have used it almost every day and there’s loads left. I think this will easily last me five or six months.

 

Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream & Divine Face Oil

£12.00 for mini versions of both on LoveLula

I’ve heard great things about the Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream so it was nice to be able to test a mini version because my skin can be so fussy when it comes to heavier moisturisers.

This smells delicious and is definitely a heavier moisturiser than Rejoice. It’s not too heavy at all, sinks in quickly, and doesn’t leave any kind of greasy feeling on your skin. I’ve been enjoying using it as a night cream and have found that it is really helping to hydrate my skin. Personally, I don’t think I will repurchase the Vanilla Pod cream because I am on a serious ‘try to be as vegan as I can be’ campaign at the moment, and I just don’t need to rub things with animal products on my face. When I’m out of this I think I’m going to try out their Immortal moisturiser with SPF 15.

The Divine Face Oil was the biggest surprise of this little lot for me. I know that oil absorbs oil, which is great, but I have really struggled to find a face oil that I like. And by that I mean one that sinks in quickly and doesn’t make you look like someone cooked a full English breakfast on your face. To my surprise, the face oil did just that and I’ve already repurchased a full size bottle.

 

Antipodes Rejoice Light Day Cream

Free on an offer, usually £25.99 on LoveLula

I could barely believe my timing when I saw LoveLula were offering a full size day cream as a freebie when you purchased two or more Antipodes products. Again, I can’t justify buying a full price item only for my skin to be angry with it, so it was nice to get to try out two Antipodes moisturisers for a fraction of the full size price.

The Rejoice day cream is, as the name suggests, very light (lighter than Vanilla Pod) but it doesn’t skimp on hydration at all. It sinks in quickly without leaving any kind of greasy or tacky feeling, and smells delicious. If you’re concerned about the price, a little bit goes a very long way. You just need the old “pea sized amount” and you should find that is plenty to leave your face feeling all kinds of fresh and moisturised.

 

Swatch of Antipodes Dragon Fruit Pink Lipstick

Antipodes Lipstick Dragon Fruit Pink

£19.99 for 4g on LoveLula

Since going cruelty free, I have been on the hunt for a dupe for my much loved Chatter Box by Mac, and I hadn’t really spotted anything which came close until I stumbled across Dragon Fruit Pink. Not only is Dragon Fruit cruelty free but it’s also toxin free, so I guess you could eat it if you really wanted.

The bullet is a slightly different shape to most lipsticks and I think this lends itself to easier application. It isn’t a creme kinda formula, like Mac’s Chatterbox, it’s a little bit drier but it does go on easily and doesn’t feel thick or drying on my lips. I’ve also being eyeing up this lipstick in shade Piha Beach Tangerine too.

In terms of lasting power, it does a pretty good job of lasting through eating and drinking. Like most lipsticks, and to my dismay, it won’t last all day long. That said, it’s really not going to disappear after a couple of hours of wearing it. I’ve found that it wears and fades evenly as well so it looks nice and it doesn’t look like it’s fading.

Applied as it is, straight onto your lips, it’s a lovely vibrant pink colour. I’ve been toning it down for work by applying some lip balm first to give a bit of colour that I can get away with.


I think it’s fairly clear to see from my fangirling that I do think Antipodes are worth the hype. I’m also very happy because I discovered a RealFoods store near us and it sells Antipodes; I don’t even need to order it online.

Have you ever tried Antipodes before? What did you think?

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