Green Earth

    Zero waste home: a morning of contemplating our waste

    Bea Johnson: Dispelling misconceptions about ZERO WASTE living

    I attended an inspiring morning of talks on a subject of the utmost importance and close to my heart:  zero waste. Headlining the event is perhaps the person many consider to be the mother of the movement,  Bea Johnson. She was there to impart her advice for aspiring zero wasters and talk about how zero waste has changed her and her family’s life for the better.  

    The event was organised by Bristol based family-company Eco Living and compered by  London based zero waste vlogger, Kate Arnell, and held in Bristol’s iconic Arnolfini auditorium. The talks marked Bea’s first visit to the city.

    Prior to Bea’s talk, two other inspiring individuals, Michelle Cassar creative director at City to Sea Bristol  and Lizzie Carr, adventurer and environmentalist  shared their own experiences of plastic and more specifically plastic pollution, and how it has affected them and prompted them to to combat the problem. Both were equally captivating and I am in no doubt we will be hearing more from both in the future.*

    Who is Bea Johnson?

    Bea is a French native now based in California. Her lifestyle has catapulted her to prominence since starting her zero waste journey back in 2008. In that time she has published a book entitled ‘Zero Waste Home’ that  is available in 12 languages. The book contains tips and advice for others who are trying to live waste free.  In addition she has  travelled the world giving talks to curious audiences wondering how she maintains her lifestyle. She also keeps her blog and social media channels updated with daily/weekly posts, has been interviewed by numerous news outlets keen to scrutinise whether she’s telling the truth and how her  family of four produce just one jar of waste annually. Their home has even been under 24 hour CCTV surveillance to prove her doubters wrong.  She  claims the change in her family’s lifestyles has meant they now have experiences rather than stuff, they collect memories not souvenirs.

    I really liked that she opened her talk with what she doesn’t do. She was clearly keen to dispel misconceptions about living zero waste:

    • She doesn’t do no-poo – I guess she gets asked this a lot because a lot of people keen to embark on their own zero waste give up shampoo (I did!)
    • She doesn’t use moss she uses loo roll
    • She doesn’t use stingy nettles to make her lips bigger (confused? Bea was trying to find a zero waste option to replace her lip plumper. She decided to love her lips just as they are, and gave up on both natural and shop bought plumpers)!
    • She’s not a vegan (she’s been the recipient of online abuse from the vegan community). It is common to hear the argument that a vegan diet has the most positive impact on the planet.

    So, what does she do…

    She uses shampoo, but a bar without any packaging. She buys her loo roll in bulk wrapped in paper not plastic and makes her own make-up (her kohl recipe is said to be excellent).  What I really appreciated was the level of attention she gives to everything . For example she requested that the company who make her beauty oil remove the label so she is left with the glass bottle only. The labelling on jars is often an afterthought, so for those who buy produce in glass jars to avoid plastic, there remains limitations to our attempts at being conscious consumers, and we will still produce waste. She really has taken it to the  next level, and by listening to her talk you can feel her passion for making a difference.

    What is zero waste living? Living your life according to the 5-r’s.

    What are the 5 R’s of zero waste living? 

    1. Refuse: what you don’t need. Napkins are a common example as are plastic straws, but the list is endless and junk mail is also a problem and make a stand against unnecessary marketing paraphernalia and gimmicky things that are feeding an unhealthy economy
    2. Reduce: sort through your clutter and donate what you don’t need and use to local charity shops. Keep shopping trips and shop less, bringing less in reduces the opportunity for waste
    3. Reuse: replace your disposables with reusables: look around your home and especially in the kitchen and when out about, stop buying plastic water bottles and use water flasks instead, take tote bags and tupperware, tiffins and boxes when you shop
    4. Recycle: if you have refused, reduced and reused first and recycling is the only viable option then Bea suggests you get to know your cities waste policy and take it to the relevant place
    5. Rot: find out what you can compost and find a composting system that works for you

    There will often be things you won’t agree with, even if you really admire the person saying them. For me the second of the 5 R’s, reduce is one that perplexed me the most. Not because I disagree, as it happens I am currently having my own declutter and this is possibly why it resonates. It is more because I see that this is the problem and I can’t help feeling guilty about being part of this problem.

    When you consider all the stuff we have, surely we can’t all offload it hoping someone else will want it? Sorting through clutter and donating to charity shops is excellent and gives functional things a new home and lease of life. Yet it’s still shifting ‘stuff’ from one place to another. And if we all did this over and over again, then charity shops will be burdened with donations they can’t accommodate.

    And all the time we’re sifting through our clutter, more stuff continues to be  produced. It’s all bonkers. What need to change IS stuff: it needs to be reduced.

    Until about 70-years ago, most households would have primarily been functional with little decor and stuff. We have been catapulted into an insanely materialistic age that hasn’t done us or the planet any favours.

    Overall, Bea’s captivating talk reinforced my (and I am sure my fellow audience members) desire to make a positive impact in our own small but significant way. She reinforced the zero waste lifestyle and its powerful message.

    Sometimes fighting waste feels like a losing battle especially when there’s plastic everywhere. But I have faith and by educating our children as Bea has done, perhaps we can have a lasting impact on our wasteful ways and learn the art of living without stuff.

    Afterall stuff is a very 21st centur and until relatively recently a very Western problem and therefore responsibility lies with us to manage our waste and come up ith solutions to prevent more being produced.

    *I will include blog posts about both in the coming weeks 🙂


    Green Earth

    10 Tips to reduce your plastic pollution when food shopping

    For the first time in what feels like a looooong time I visited a supermarket with my sister to do a fairly big shop. The experience reminded me why I have stopped doing my main shopping in supermarkets: plastic!  Darn, insidious plastic is everywhere, it’s unavoidable and so normal that regular (often time-pressed) shoppers are unlikely to think about it, or if they are frustrated, they’re still trapped and will generally buy produce in plastic and other over-packaged items regardless.


    When I found myself in Sainsbury’s local late one Saturday evening (the local shops generally shut at 6) I realised how difficult it is to shop consciously and package-free. This local Sainsbury’s is so  small it doesn’t have a deli counter.  This meant we couldn’t purchase some of the items we wanted to buy, by weight and use our own containers to avoid single-use plastic. Instead we bought our olives, capers, roasted peppers and artichokes in glass jars (yes- we were having antipasto!). I’m not claiming the taste is better than those packaged in the fresh produce aisle, as the olives we purchased in jars were in brine and I generally think olives are tastier preserved in oil. Yet we decided to vote with our feet, stick to our guns and principles. We also bought unpackaged fruit and veg, a carton of almond milk (which comes in Tetra-Pak. This company claims to be responsible but I intend to read more about this) loose bread  rolls as there’s an in-store bakery at least.


    I realised supermarkets in their current form offer a desperately flawed shopping experience to shoppers with a package-free or zero waste approach to shopping. There isn’t really a viable option to avoid plastic packaged food without making exceptions, even if you really want to. Of course plastic as a material needs to be banned-it’s a no-brainer, but until it is the continued and extravagant use of a material that has unanimously been denounced by every scientist and environmentalist on the planet due to its toxicity and limited life span, should surely be managed better than it currently is. Eventually my hopes are it will be made illegal. I mean if you attract a taxed for carbon emission when driving certain vehicles (and rightly so) surely we should be doing the same to companies determined to use plastic?


    The other things is, I along with so many others, treat my decision to avoid plastic a lifestyle choice akin to being a meat-eater or a vegan. Products exist that meet the needs of these consumers. Supermarkets should give equal regard to their shoppers who have chosen plastic-free lifestyle, I am sure they’d be surprised just how many of their shoppers care about this issue.


    Until the world of economics stops influencing common sense, I have come up with the following tips that can be tried out  when food shopping in both mainstream and independent shops (because as such as far as I am aware there are only a handful or package free shops in the UK, and none of these are in Bristol, yet). So you can try some or all of the following when shopping:

      1. Buy jarred instead of plastic or better still take your own jar and fill up on*:
      • olives
      • pesto
      • antipasti (at the deli counter)
      • drinks
      • bread – lots of supermarkets have a loose bread and pastries section so you can avoid plastic 🙂
      • *I noticed that the express aisle was full of delicious foods that have become staples: hummus for one, olives for another and artichokes and sundried tomatoes which are clearly very popular with shoppers as they’re always available in the express shops not just the larger ones.

      2.Take your own produce bags, tupperware, tiffin boxes and so forth to scoop shops

      1. Order a veggie box and state ‘no plastic’ when placing your order (I did this and so far it has been plastic free, although I do wonder if this means I will never have kale or spinach? I will happily give them a box or produce bag to use instead)
      1. Stop using a bin bag, wash your bin instead
      1. Make your own from your scooped produce
      • homous
      • bread
      • dip
      1. Support local and buy your fruit and veg from local green grocers and take your own bags or use paper ones
      1. Take your own boxes to fishmongers and butchers
      1. order milk from the milkman which will be delivered in glass bottles that are collected washed, and refilled
      1. Take your own bags every time- the less plastic bags that are used, the less demand there will be to make them
      1. LOBBY- every time you identify an unnecessary use of packaging, then write to the company- email, call,  or start a petition – there is power in being a consumer so let’s  harness it and make a difference

      By doing some or all of the above, you will should notice that you produce less plastic during the week and in the process you’re having a major impact on:

      • the environment
      • the economy
      • the supermarkets
      • brands that aren’t participating in change- I have a major bugbear with babybel cheese stored in wax and wrapped in plastic just to include the brand name :(((

      Finally, because buying is voting  your choices can act to lobby brands and supermarkets to change their approach to waste management. You are letting them know the way they are dealing with it is just not acceptable to the modern enlightened green consumer:- which these days is pretty much every educated person out there.
      What are your top-tips? Leave your  top-tips in the comment section below 🙂

    Green Beauty

    The bristle brush (part of the no-poo series)

    Can a brush keep me on my no-poo journey? More than 8-weeks into my no-poo experiment (see no-poo review 1 and 2 for more info) and after experiencing peak greasiness a few weeks back (and admittedly close to throwing in the towel and repealing no-poo) I decided to research more about the process and ‘science’ behind it as I really want it to work with the promise of beautiful low maintenance hair spurring me on.

    One tool I seemed to be reading about a lot on the numerous blogs and websites I turned to was the bristle brush. I gathered that we need to turn away from most or all things once deemed a normal haircare choices and instead adopt a more natural approach. And this includes looking at the type of brush you use. The bristle brush is the brush of choice for no-pooer’s it seems. 

    So what is a bristle brush and why might it help someone who is trying to give up on shamPOO?

    The body of a bristle brush is generally made of wood, and the bristle’s from stiff wild boar hair (does this mean they’re not vegetarian?).

    While I am not sure if the following is evidence based, but as I agree with many of the points, I decided to include the following list taken from a Moroccan website discussing the benefits of using a bristle brush. The benefits for your hair include:

    1. Grows hair faster and prevents hair loss
    2. Conditions hair
    3. Adds shine (I concur, it really does)
    4. Cleans hair (Yup, if this means removing the dust, then I concur again)
    5. Prevents breakage and frizz (Yup, although it does make hair static too but this is short-lived)
    6. It’s a great styling too
    7. Balances your scalps oil (if this is true, then this hair brush it vital when conducting a no-poo experiment)
    8. Softens hair (I’d have to agree to this as well)

    Source: Morrocco Method

    I managed to buy my bristle brush in a local pharmacy here in Bristol and it’s  made of olive wood, in the process I managed to:

    • Support local
    • Invest in a natural and compostable product
    • That was minimally packaged*

    *I have to add that while it was minimally packaged,  the information card was attached to the brush with a black plastic tag that was very difficult to remove 🙁 and in the process I managed to scratch the brush with the scissor.

    A brush that ‘Clean’s’ hair:

    Point number 4 above claims the brush ‘cleans’ your hair. I agree as it managed to dust and extract ‘bits’ that find their way into our hair. And I know this because the first time I used it, the brush was covered in dust even though I had rinsed my hair the night before.

    I used it when there was a little shampoo bar residue remaining. After a few brushes over the course of the day, the residue was gone. This must have been down to the brush as I had not washed or added any product to it- not even my homemade dry shampoo.

    I am now so convinced by this brush and the benefits it seems to bring my no-poo journey, that I am determined to stick with the experiment. I think all my life, or rather, since my teens, I have been treating my hair all wrong. Exposing it to plastic hair brushes and combs and over-thought, complicated man-made, synthetically produced shamPOO’s that have confused my scalp’s natural oils, making it demanding due to increasing its grease levels and drying it out due to overwashing. Not to mention all the other products and heat-exposure (straighteners, hair-dryers, curlers) that I have used.

    A green life seems to be a simpler life too, as I keep discovering. I will still use my shampoo bar for now, follow this with lavender, but increasingly i think about the mantra, don’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t put in your mouth and this no-poo journey has put my drive to natural living under a microscope and gradually, I hope to be as compostable in my human self as my bristle brush! (if you know what I mean!!)

    Green Beauty

    No-Poo review 2!

    It has been nearly 4-weeks since my last update on the no-poo experiment. And I have to confess that it hasn’t been plain sailing- I had a mini-meltdown that lead to a halt:I sort of cheated, albeit with only a tiny amount of shamPOO.

    You see, I travelled to London by train with Bean immediately after work about two Friday’s ago. On our way to West Acton I managed to get something sticky in my hair, then me and my hair got rained on (acid rain is never a good look) this meant that my -by now- already VERY greasy hair looked like clumpy rats tails. It didn’t help I was off to a farewell party the following evening and had planned to wear my hair up, but as I tried to rinse with plain water and a little rose geranium essential oil (the only one I had that had travelled with me to London) and saw this really didn’t help the state of my hair, so the following morning I reached for my friends shamPOO:( (I truly felt deflated at the time).

    I can’t remember the make but she bought it from TK Maxx,  it said it was organic but I read it contained SLS! So I accept it as a fail.

    You can’t pretend not to care when you do…

    I also accept that no matter how hard you try, you can’t pretend not to care about certain things you just do care about- and I care about my hair, or more specifically how it looks at a party (vanity, all is vanity).

    I can handle wearing it up and using the dry rye flour shampoo, this doesn’t bother me. But, when it is so dry combined with grease, sticky, rained on and not even a good rinse with water and rose geranium will do, I had to draw the line (the fact that there was a party definitely weakened my no-poo stance somewhat as well).

    However to (over) compensate for this fail I then proceeded not to wash it for the 2-weeks that followed  and surprisingly I am happy to report that my shamPOOing doesn’t seem to have derailed the no-poo benefits too much because in this period only a small amount of grease appeared, that warranted only a few applications of the rye flour compared to the previous weeks 👊.

    When I finally gave it a no-poo wash…

    When I finally washed it, I used my soap bar by Funky Soap that’s all natural and surely no-poo (or have I failed again?). I never use much. This is what I learnt the hard way when it comes to solid shampoo bars: you don’t need much or else you’ll be left with a residue that really wants to stay clinging to your hair.

    So, after 2-weeks of not even rinsing my hair I used:

    • 1 funky soap solid shampoo bar- black walnut
    • Rinsed with cider vinegar, water and loads (about 10 drops) of lavender


    Then, a proper game-changer, I invested in a bristle brush…
    To be continued.

    Green Family

    Cafe W

    I love Cafe W.

    Cafe W is Waterstone’s cafe, in the centre of Bristol. It’s really chilled, has great food and family, kid and toddler friendly (look↓ it even has  a slide).


    Since its hard to completely escape the need to go into your city centre (believe me I have tried), and if you do have toddlers and young people who need to vent a bit of their pram-cabin-fever frustration (fair do’s) I urge you to see whether your local Waterstone’s has their own family friendly retreat. It could be the difference between a good shopping trip and a bad one. And so far into motherhood, a bad one is the reason I hadn’t visited my own city centre for over 3-months!!


    Bean exploring the books

    Cafe W is perfect especially if it’s raining. OK my Bean inevitably still runs off and I have to chase him mid coffee sip, with a mouthful of their really yummy caramel slice (VG) but the slide, the dressing up box and the coloring in table might just keep them occupied long enough for you to sit down, gather your thoughts, enjoy your drink, eat some cake and reminisce about your favourite books from childhood. Which incidentally were all around me on our last visit.


    Soya latter and a vegan caramel slice


    I am sure there are others in the centre of Bristol that I have yet to discover. Perhaps I will check Foyles next time-am I stereotyping book shops?

    But I think Cafe W is my fav. Their coffee is really great, and they serve bombay Railway chai which,  if you’ve not tried, is immense, as well as chocolate tea (omg). They offer at least one vegan cake, and have lots of gluten free options,  their kids menu is pretty good and it’s very reasonable-I never spend more than £7. 

    And if you really wanted to (which did occur to me on my last visit) you could sneak in a cheeky slice of your favourite cake from Ahh Toots …but I implore you to try Cafe W’s drinks, their awesome.

    ***Plus they serve water from a canister where you can easily refill your flask, offer a flamboyant selection of loose teas and utilise minimal plastic.


    Green Beauty

    No-Poo! (4-week update)

    I didn’t walk into this no poo experiment with much of a plan. It was more the case I hadn’t washed it for about 2-weeks (possibly more) and a no poo experiment seemed the natural progression. Of course in this time it began to look greasy, especially at the front. I delt with it by wearing a wide head band to disguise it. And later, after three weeks added flour. Considering I haven’t read that much about other people’s no poo journey or read much about the pre-shampoo era (basically anything before 100-years ago was the no-shampoo era) this means I have so far been properly winging it and amazingly, it doesn’t look half bad. Which is why I am as curious and determined to continue on this hair detox.

    What people (especially those that tend to grimace when you admit you’re going no poo) don’t fully understand is no poo basically means avoiding nasty chemicals that are bad for our hair, our skin, our bodies (everything we put on our skin gets absorbed) and it’s bad for our environment, which then goes on to having a myriad of repercussions, and if the ingredients are toxic, none of these side effects are positive. A no poo lifestyle means you DO wash your hair, but you choose gentle alternatives, ones you generally won’t find in your local Boots, but probably in your kitchen cupboard. I don’t know why, but I get a buzz from making my own cleaning products for the house. I get a buzz from knowing that the simple infused vinegar, which can be ingested, is so safe for my family, I can use it without ever questioning its safety. This mindset is fast spreading to every single aspect of my life.

    When I wrote you are more likely to find no poo in your kitchen cupboards, this is completely true in my case. So far I have added the following to my hair:

    1.Bicarbonate of soda

    2.Rye flour with lavender

    3.Cider vinegar with lavender

    4. Soap nuts and clove no poo rinse

    5. Coconut oil

    The Bicarb:

    I found this a little harsh to be honest, even after just one wash. 

    Method: I read that you add the powder to your hair, add a little water to make a paste and scrub using your nails. Then you rinse thoroughly, following up with a conditioner of your choice.

    Would I use this method again: No and simply because I consider the flour option to be much gentler and equally grease absorbing. It mimicked squeaky clean hair, but didn’t look like freshly washed hair. I read about this affecting your ph balance on your scalp and therefore shifted to flour.

    The rye flour:

    Like the bicarb, the purpose of the flour is mop up the grease and rinse it away, following up with a no poo conditioner. 

    Method: Much the same as the bicarb, apply to your hair, concentrating on the grease areas. Mine tends to build up right at the bottom by my hair line and underneath which I find a tricky area to get to, and of course the hair around my forehead.

    Would I use this method again: SO far, I am really happy with the rye flour and mixed the second batch with dried lavender. I might try cornflour as it’s lighter, but only once my rye flour has finished. Yes, I am going to stick with this- I loved it and it works well as a dry shampoo as well.

    Homemade soap nut and clove no poo rinse:

    So, Thursday eve I got a bit frustrated with my hair. It’s gone bit matted and dry at the ends and the underneath looks heavy and lank. As I had visited Amphora Aromatics that afternoon and bought Clove essential oils, I decide, totally on the cuff, to boil up a no poo hair rinse. Soap nuts or berries produce a gentle, natural surfactant capable of lifting the grease and grime.

    Method: Boil about 6 soapnuts and roughly 1tsp of whole cloves for about 15 minutes until the water has turned brownish. When it has cooled add a few drops of clove to the mixture. Wet your hair as normal then add the rinse , gently rubbing all over scalp, rinse thoroughly. 

    Would I use this method again: It’s not bad, so YES! I am quite pleased I conjured something effective.  My hair looked really shiny and clean

    Cider Vinegar and lavender rinse:

    This is my usual hair rinse and something I am unconvinced by as my hair always looks really shiny afterwards.  

    Method: Add 1 part cider vinegar to 5 parts water with clove, lavender or any essential oils with antibacterial properties of your choice.

    Would I use this method again: Well YES! I have been using it for years.

    Coconut Oil:

    I had read that coconut oil is terrific when you go no poo, and as my hair felt very dry I decided I would give it a go. One thing I would say here is, I have been using coconut oil for years on my hair but usually follow with a shampoo to remove it, otherwise I feel it lingers and makes your hair feel heavy and look greasy. I did begin to wonder whether flour and water would effectively remove it.

    Method: Apply as much as you need to your hair ensuring you massage it into the dry hair.  I left it on for AGES, then added some flour before rinsing but I could feel the oil wouldn’t rinse away and it took three washes or so before it was fully out.

    Would I use this method again: Only if I could find a way I could rinse it out.

    Conclusion of this NO POO 4-week update:

    I am now entering my fifth (possibly sixth) week of no poo- the exact start date escapes me! I am really excited to see if the theory of no poo will eventually mean your hair and the sebum readjusts to become ‘baby-like’ hair, or whether I will just turn into a greasy lanolin scented lady covered in flour…hmmmm, the no poo journey continues…