Author Archives: Our Little Organic Life

Last Minute Green Gift Guide

So lets face it…who really has all their presents bought by the end of November?  I mean if you have, then I am seriously impressed.  But most of us are just starting to think about heading out to the shops now (or in my case online shops) and so, I thought I’d share some ideas on green/eco, organic and/or generally useful gifts for the last minute shoppers out there:

1. ‘5 Free’ Nail Varnish by Hopscotch £8.50

I thought this would be a sweet little stocking stuffer.  I came across Hopscotch at their stand at a Christmas fair back in November and after years of not wearing nail polish (when I used to be a total nail polish afficionado) I was so happy to find this one which…while not totally ‘natural’ is free of the 5 worst toxic chemicals normally found in nail polish.  They come in all kinds of fun candy colours and some glitter coats, but I went for a classic red and am pleased to say that it is actually a fairly glossy, long wearing formula.  (And its vegan as well.)  So definitely grab a couple of these as stocking stuffers for the girls in your life.

2. Organic Rose Regenerating Serum by Baie Botanique £34.00

A couple of months ago Baie Botanique sent me a bottle of their lovely regenerating serum formulation filled with rose water and lots of botanical extracts and oils to try out.  Its 80% organic, 98% natural and is vegan as well.   They are a smallish company founded by Sophie Oliver, a former professional make up artist who wanted to create a way to care for skin in a natural way which would suit the ethos of her newly adopted plant-based lifestyle.  The line is based upon the two main ingredients of rose and rosehip which are both renowned for their anti-aging and rejuvenating properties.  Personally I have been using both of these botanical ingredients in my own DIY skincare blends for years now and wholeheartedly agree that they do make a difference.  This beautifully packaged product would make a lovely stocking stuffer or small gift for any true beauty lovers.

If you’re concerned about the preservatives used (which all commercial skincare products will have in some quantities) you can check out the ingredients here.

3. Museum Membership

I’ve included this because its a gift I always love to receive.  As you know, I live in London and in the past I have received gifts of Tate membership and British Museum membership.  I love this kind of gift because going to exhibitions can be very expensive (usually around  £12-£19 per ticket) and this allows me to see everything the museum is putting on that year and not worry about how much its going to cost me.  Its particularly generous to add on a ‘plus one’ membership so your recipient can take a friend with them when they go.

Its also a particularly nice way of supporting the arts in your local community and its quite a good gift for minimalists or green-minded folk, as its not ‘stuff’.  Experiences always make lovely gifts in my opinion.

4. Young Living Premium Starter Kit £139

I know quite a few people who have bought the Young Living Premium Starter Kit as a present for their loved ones this year.  Its a pretty special present to get…I know because that is how I received my first Young Living kit!  For £139 you get a beautiful dewdrop diffuser and 11 Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils which you can diffuse to make your home smell amazing and you can also use for massage, skincare, cleaning your home, animal care, supporting the health of children and babies and your own general health and wellness.  Young Living are also in loads of countries across the globe so its a nice way to be able to buy a gift for loved ones who live abroad.

5. Hurom Slow Juicer (starting at £249)

I got my Hurom slow juicer last summer after doing loads of research on juicing and what the normal centrifugal juicers do to the juice.  First of all, they make it foamy, which I hate, and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t taste like as fresh as juice bar juices.  This is because most juicers heat up the juice during the juicing process and this oxidises the juice.  So, instead of drinking the antioxidants you thought you were getting into your body, the juice quickly turns to free radicals.  Hurom juicers gently squeeze and press your fruits and vegetables so the juice is cold, fresh, full of nutrients and antioxidants…and there’s no yucky foam.  They’re really popular in the US and in Asia right now and are gaining popularity in the UK.  They can also be used to make really creamy nut milks and legume milks quickly and easily too.  Their basic model starts at £299 but Hurom UK have generously offered my readers a £50 discount if you order your juicer using the code OLOL50.  (They’ll also throw in a free copy of the book Juiceman by Andrew Cooper so you’ll have loads of great recipes to get you started.)

6. Montblanc Pen

Green gift guide you say, Kelly?  Well, believe it or not, this is a fantastic green gift.  A luxurious one definitely, but yes, green and eco-friendly.  I have had my beautiful Montblanc pen for about 7 years now and the recyclable glass bottle of ink to refill it has lasted for ages.  Even if you use the refillable plastic cartridges, they are still far better than replacing a whole pen every time it runs out of ink.

7. Gift Vouchers

I totally understand that this doesn’t feel personal.  And some people really hate the idea of giving gift vouchers.  But speaking from the recipient’s perspective, getting a voucher to your favourite store is just the best thing ever.  Being able to choose exactly what you want when you go to the store to redeem your voucher is just so much fun.  And although it may not be for a store which fits your ethos and you know your voucher won’t be spent on green or eco products (or anything which fits your own value system in any way at all), at least you know they will be spent on something the recipient really wants and will use.  Because its not about you.  Its about them and bringing them some joy at Christmas.  It could be for John Lewis (always a safe bet), Space NK or Liberty’s…or the Lego store.  Whatever floats their boat!  An unwanted present of an eco-lunch box sitting unloved in someone’s cupboard for years is money less well spent than on a voucher they spend on something that will make them happy.

So happy last minute shopping and I hope that your Christmas is a very merry one!

The Perfect Diet

So here it goes.  A moment of truth…and shame.  Since I was about 15 years old I’ve been a chronic dieter.  And as a result, I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by depriving it of the essential healthy fats and other nutrients that it needed to be nourished.  And even worse, an imbalanced body like mine was utterly unable to support the healthy mind and spirit needed to really love myself.  The worst damage was done in the time leading up to my wedding when I began a 1000 calorie a day diet.  If I’d been just eating big bowls of vegetables and lightly steamed greens it might not even have been so bad, but I wasn’t.  I was incorporating the nutrition-less, empty calorie ‘diet’ foods like Weight Watchers meals and diet sodas.  And the awful thing, was that after 9 months of eating like this, depriving my body of any nourishment, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I wasn’t really losing that much weight.  I struggled to keep up my exercise routines because I had no energy.  I think I lost around 12 pounds in total.  I went to see a dietician at my local GP practice and her “sage” professional advice, after looking at my diet diary was to swap butter and olive oil for margarine and suggested that perhaps I should reduce my diet to 900 calories.  Yep, you heard it.  She wanted me to remove the small amount of healthy essential fat I actually WAS getting in my diet and replace it with toxic, hydrogenated, free-radical spread…I mean margarine.  Even I knew that was wrong, so I ignored her and continued with what I was doing.  It was only later, after the wedding and honeymoon, when I started thinking about wanting to become pregnant that things really changed and I realised the damage I had done to myself through deprivation dieting.

And now I’m ready to share with you the perfect diet.  Are you ready?  Here it is………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….there is no perfect diet.

There is a perfect diet for you, but there is no perfect diet that will work for all of us.  And here’s why.  It’s really complicated.  It’s because, get ready for it, we’re not the same person.  That’s right.  I’m not you and you’re not your neighbour John, or Sally who works at the supermarket.

Do I wish that we could all use the same diet and exercise formula and get the same results?  Yes, of course I do.  But genetics doesn’t work that way.  We each have different DNA (aside from identical twins, but even they express those genes in different ways) and so we don’t all have the same number of genes.  There is no perfect or ideal number of genes, so its not a competition.  But it does mean that some of us may have mutations with, or even lack, enzymes which are essential for different body processes.  (Bear with me here, this will come back around to diet.)  You may have heard of the MTHFR, COMT or BRCA genes.  MTHFR and COMT enzymes are essential for methylation, which is used to control gene expression.  Women who have mutations with these genes will have difficulty becoming pregnant and maintaining pregnancies.  On the other hand, the BRCA genes are tumour suppressing proteins and Angelina Jolie made the BRCA I & II genes famous when she had prophylactic surgery undertaken to remove her breast tissue, ovaries and fallopian tubes because of her high genetic risk for getting this cancer.  So what I’m getting at here, is that we don’t all process the world around us in the same way.  And we have to love our bodies for what they are.  The lack of this gene or a mutation with that gene doesn’t make us imperfect, but it does make us realise that we may have to take certain precautions to avoid higher risks for foods, toxins and lifestyles which our bodies are simply unable to handle.

Okay, so I started eating healthfully again.  I got skinny right?  Wrong.  I started eating normally for like the first time in years, and my body had no. clue. what. to. do.  I mean I’d basically been telling my body – in prehistoric terms – that I was going through a time of famine and so when it started getting a normal amount of food, and I’m talking like 1500-1700 calories here, it thanked the god of rain for sending it a time of plenty and it decided to store every calorie it could.  As fat.  Yay.  But the good news was that all this healthy food I was now eating allowed me to maintain a really healthy pregnancy and produce a really healthy baby.

So a year and a half on postpartum, no I’m not skinny.  I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m okay with how I look.  I fit into my size 8 jeans and that will do for the time being.  I’m still breastfeeding my daughter and I’m grateful to my body for all its been through and for the beautiful daughter its given me and still helps to nourish.  I continue to support my thyroid health through diet and the use of therapeutic essential oils, and that is helping me enormously now.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve very slowly found the diet that is right for me.  And actually, it isn’t a diet at all.  I’ve learned that I can’t eat too many sugars (argh!), one cup of coffee a day does me good (but more than that doesn’t) and that I definitely can’t process gluten very well (as much as I like to tell myself I can when I see a croissant winking at me from the bakery window).  However, you may not be able to tolerate coffee at all.  And some people have issues with one of their liver enzymes and can even build up high levels of mercury from eating something as simple as salmon, whereas the next person processes it perfectly well.  Even healthy juices green smoothies could actually do you a lot of damage if your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally.  And I haven’t even touched on how your gut flora fits in to all of this.  The list goes on.  Bodies are funny old things, aren’t they?

There is an easy and shorter – but more expensive – way to learn all of this about yourself.  You can get genetic testing done and enlist the help of a reputable nutritional therapist.  They can help you to understand your test results and to recommend bespoke  adjustments to your diet and lifestyle which will support what your individual body is able to do, and to avoid what it isn’t able to do.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to tell you that a Slim Fast shake is the perfect diet solution for you.  But its not.  Not for anyone.  And the one bit of generic advice I can give everyone is to get the toxic chemicals out of your food, cleaning and skincare regimens.  Eat organic, biodynamic or non-sprayed foods.  Eat more plants.  Use natural skincare.  Clean your home and office with natural cleaning products.  (They work just as well, by the way, and they cost less.)  Yes, we do have livers and yes, livers were designed to remove toxins from our bodies, but no one’s liver was designed to handle the amount of chemicals we eat, breathe and slather onto our skin every day in today’s world.

So whether you choose to go the slow route of figuring out the right diet for you, like I did (and continue to do), or if you opt for a faster route with the support of a nutritional therapist, I hope that above all you prioritise learning to love yourself and love your beautiful body.  Personally, I found the support of my Young Living essential oils incredibly helpful in both an emotional and physical capacity over the last 9 months of this process.  But I guess what I’m saying is be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself, eat beautiful foods and move in ways that make you happy.

Green & Sustainable Style Edit – September 2016

I’m a bit late getting this month’s style edit out.  There are several reasons.  Life happens, stuff gets busy, and I turned one year older.  But here I am and I’m really happy with this month’s look.  It reflects my feelings about September.  Going back to work after a long summer holiday.  The return to more structured clothes and lady-like style.  And for me, it signals the return to school.  After a two year break to enjoy pregnancy and my daughter’s infancy, I am now returning to finish my studies in Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy.  Its a part time course, and I will be attending the classes and clinics on weekends, so my daughter will be with her father while I’m not around.  (They have all kinds of fun things planned without me.)

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While for many, the return to school can mean wearing comfy clothes, for me that can’t happen.  I will be starting to attend the student clinics this year (scary!) and we need to look professional when seeing clients.  Here are some pieces which really caught my eye this season from a few of my favourite green/eco clothing companies.  For my first look I’ve gone for a Breakfast at Tiffany’s inspired theme and have paired a simple pair of organic cotton tapered black Alba trousers from People Tree with a structured NIA wool and recycled fibre blend boucle top from Komodo.

This is also the first time I have featured Beyond Skin, the Brighton-based (Hove, actually) vegan shoe company.  I struggle with vegan leather alternatives sometimes because they often simply replace leather with non-biodegradable plastics and other environmentally unfriendly options.  But what I like about Beyond Skin is that they are both ethical and environmentally conscious.  They incorporate organic and ecologically sustainable materials wherever possible and their shoe components are sourced from Spain and Italy and then produced in Spain – so all within the EU.  At present, they do incorporate PU into their soles, but in time they aspire to phasing this out to create a shoe free from all non-recycled petroleum products.  But…yadda yadda yadda…they’re doing the best they can at the moment and they make gorgeous shoes which are worn by more glamorous movie stars than you can shake a stick at. (Natalie Portman wore exclusively Beyond Skin in her movie V for Vendetta.)   This month I’ve featured two versions of their Shelley flats – one in a faux suede and the other in a shiny faux leather.

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For my second look I’ve continued with my Audrey Hepburn inspiration and have brought together a Komodo TAIO bamboo jersey dress with a cotton Wrasse jacket from Cornish designer, Seasalt.  I’ve accessorised it with a very simple vintage silk Hermes scarf in a bright autumn colour.

3093For perfume, I’ve been wearing my favourite essential oil of the moment, Idaho Blue Spruce.  I added a rollerball to the top of the bottle and roll it along the top of my spine and along the tops of my tension-ridden shoulders.  I find it an incredibly comforting smell and with all the uncertainty I’m experiencing with preparing for my return to school, comfort is what I need right now.  (Better than finding comfort in a plate of macaroni cheese, right?)  Idaho Blue Spruce is meant to bring a sense of balance, to release emotional blocks and clear emotional trauma.

What about you…what are you wearing this season now that there’s a slight chill in the air?

Yoga Inspired Tips for Keeping Cool

This week we are featuring a guest blog post from another mama in my local area, Meredith Gunderson.  Not only is she another expat living in London, like me, but she’s also an essential oil lover and is a full-time yoga teacher at Meredith Yoga & Mindful Living.

 

OLOL Yoga August 2016

 

We become more free-range, finding ourselves at the seashore, in a field, by a fire, among friends & family. Yet, we also still have laundry to do, phone calls to be made, people to get along with and so forth.  Also, going free-range often involves long journeys on planes, trains and automobiles and time spent away from our home, bed & predictable conveniences.

So as we quite rightly are drawn out to make the most of the seasonal light, warmth, landscape and bonhomie spirit…it’s useful to be aware – summer life can get a little overheated. Sunburn, hot sweaty agitated faces…we know them well.

With overheating comes a drain of joy, stubbornness and irritable fatigue. The key is to keep your cool, don’t go 110%…seek a cool-girl 80% effort vibe. Show up, chill out and keep your cool with these 9 ayurvedic and yogic inspired tips…

How NOT to overheat your summer:

1. Don’t over commit. Give yourself the compassionate gift of ample time for tasks and transit – rushing sucks.  asic, I know, but mantra worthy too. Get real about how long things take and what is and isn’t important and you will have plenty of time to enjoy your summer.

2. Listen more, talk less. Talking is heating and listening is a free gift you can give that is always appreciated and often healing.

3. Exercise your eyes in wide open spaces, look deep into the distance – into sea, sky and stars – this creates a magical mix of humility and wonder.

4. Stay out of direct afternoon sun, take your sunbaths in the morning.

5. Keep cool with essential oils – a few drops or lavender & peppermint with water in a little spray bottle feels unbelievably delicious and cooling plus the bugs don’t like lavender.

6. Chill out with some meditation…even if it’s just for a few minutes or a few breaths – place your awareness on your breath. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, that what minds do…just gently, with as much kindness as you can muster up, escort your attention back to your breath. Don’t worry whether you are doing it “right”.  Suspend judgement and just do it and it will work its magic.

7. Practice self care. Make time for quiet me-time so you can be grounded & fully present with others.

8. Take it easy on the yoga mat. Your presence there is much more important than an instagram-able yoga pose. For a quick happy body yoga sequence, try out my free 12 minute guided yoga practice recording HERE.

9. If you don’t automatically link your movements to your breath in your yoga practice, NOW is the time to start. Inhale to create space, exhale to use the space and cozy into the space. This will create an internal flow of energy and also totally refresh the mind.

 

Green & Sustainable Style Edit – August 2016

So I had every intention of making this month’s look channel a festival friendly vibe. But in the end I veered towards something a little bit more urban. (Think sipping something cold sitting on the steps at Camden Lock on a hot London evening without a care in the world.)  Regardless of where you wear this outfit (and yesterday I wore it for a casual evening out on my holiday here on the sunny East Coast of Canada) you will look and feel great.  I dabbed a little diluted Idaho Blue Spruce oil behind my ear and for me – that comforting smell really finished off the feeling of completing the outfit for me.

OLOL Style Edit August 2016

The key pieces in the look this month are this Absolutely Bear organic cotton Maple t-shirt which I love and which gets gazillions of compliments.  This t-shirt is designed by a husband and wife team back home in London and they’ve put a lot of thought and energy into the design, quality and material sourcing for this top.  Its really lightweight so it helps keep you cool and it looks great either worn on its own or layered with a pale strappy top underneath.  I chose to wear it on its own paired with this organic Monki denim skirt and a vintage ikat jacket to keep out the evening chill.  To accessorise I recommend checking out the shoes and bags at Fashion Conscience – either online or in their lovely boutique in East Dulwich (near the station).  I’ve opted for this large vegan tote (cheap at £39) and these (non-vegan, but fair trade) flat Chloe sandals.  I think they’re a really special little independent boutique and I always pop in on my way past.

You know, as much as I love minimalism and capsule wardrobes, I really love  jewellery.  This month I’ve dug through my own jewellery box and have paired two strands of Guatemalan turquoise beads I bought on honeymoon a few years ago at the market in Chichicastenango with an antique Chinese talisman which we had turned into a pendant.  I would really encourage you to look at the jewellery you have and get creative with it.  Find the stones you love and that really resonate with you, and which are either second hand or which have been ethically sourced.  I always wear my sterling bangle which was a present from my husband years ago, but if you don’t have a bangle and like the look, I’ve found this similar one available from eco fashion  retailer, Komodo.

Finally – because its the height of summer and I have a fair complexion – I’ve opted to finish of the daytime version of this outfit with a fabulous large brimmed hat.  These hats are from London based online retailer Plum and Ivory and are ethically sourced, fair trade and made in Madagascar.  They also conveniently fold up so you can pack them in your suitcase and travel with them easily.  And at less than £23 I thought they were pretty inexpensive!  (I just wish I had their lovely model, Sarah’s cheekbones!)

And now I’m going to return to my own summer holiday!  I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and next week I’ve got a treat for you in the form of Dulwich yoga expert, Meredith Gunderson, sharing her yoga-inspired tips for keeping cool in summer.

What’s The Best Natural Pillow?

When you think that we spend a third of our life sleeping, furnishing our bed shouldn’t be an afterthought.  It should actually be a place where we invest in quality.  Unfortunately most pillows and mattresses are covered in serious amounts of toxic flame retardant (filled with hormone disruptors) and formaldehyde.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, no matter how much chemical they slather onto our pillows, that doesn’t prevent them from immediately starting to accumulate fungi, dead skin cells, dust mites, their carcasses and their faeces.  In fact, over time (as little as 18 months), up to 1/2 of the weight of your pillow can be attributed to this delightful cocktail.  So yeah…I wash my pillows pretty frequently.

Over the years I’ve slept on pretty much every kind of pillow going and before I go into why I have settled on my pillow of choice, let me run through the pros and cons of the other pillows I have used (and a couple which I haven’t).

Synthetic Pillows

In my first apartment I had the artificial polyester hollow fibre pillows.  They can be inexpensive, but they don’t last particularly well, as they go flat quickly and when you throw them into the washing machine to clean them, they separate and clump up.  Even a trip through the tumble dryer doesn’t quite put them back to rights, and these misshapen, unsupportive pillows can cause neck pain.  They generally have a life span of about 6 months but should never be kept longer than 2 years.  So you can start to see how investing in a good pillow can make a difference.  I’ve also tried memory foam pillows which I personally found to be awful.  They sound fancy, but they’re just made from polyurethane with other added chemicals.  They gave both of us aching necks (when they were supposed to ease them!) and the smell of them gave us headaches.  They also don’t ventilate well and they can make you sweat quite a lot.  They quickly made it on to the guest bed of unwanted pillows.  Not money well spent.

Feather Pillows

I’m not a fan of feather pillows.  Like the synthetic pillows they can go clumpy (even more so) and I find that the sharp bases of the feather soon start to poke through the pillow, making the pillow a bit spiky and cactus-like.  I also have allergies so I find these pillows exacerbate this problem.  And then there is the issue of the ethics of these pillows.  The feathers often come from birds kept in terrible living conditions which are then plucked alive.  I know John Lewis department store has expectations of animal welfare for the birds which are plucked to fill the feather and down bedding they sell.  In other words, these feathers are by-products of the food industry.  Either way, its not pretty.  Personally I have not found an ethically satisfactory source for feather pillows so I would not recommend them from a comfort, care or ethical standpoint.  However, my husband came with a set of these nasty pillows included…so if you are ever staying in our guest room, all I can say is sorry.

Down Pillows

Now while down feather pillows may face the exact same ethical issues as feather pillows do, they are made from the soft, under-feathers of some types of birds – usually ducks and geese – and they are extremely, deliciously comfortable.  They’re also quite expensive, so you’ve got to watch out for companies selling pillows which are a blend of down and feather.  They’re a long lasting pillow and you can wash them in the washing machine, so long as you don’t try to air dry them.  They WILL MILDEW inside the pillow if you try to air dry them, so be sure to tumble dry them until they are beyond bone dry.  They will once again become fluffy and plump after this process.  My husband uses down pillows on his side of the bed, and I find them easy to care for.  I have not found an entirely ethically satisfactory source for down pillows or duvets, so I make sure I look after the ones we already have very well with regular washing, airing and maintenance.  (See Kapok Pillows below for a great vegan-friendly alternative).

Wool Pillows

Okay, I love wool pillows.  Its incredibly easy to source organic wool pillows and duvets which are locally and ethically made here in the UK as well as in Canada and the US, and they are so comfortable and soft.  I know vegans aren’t too happy about wool, but the fact is that modern sheep breeds need to be sheared, so as long as its a nice organic farm where they love their sheep, I’m okay with that.   Wool pillows don’t go clumpy or lumpy and they don’t go flat.  They’re naturally hypoallergenic, they deter dust mites and wool is a very breathable material.  They’re also super easy to throw in the washing machine on a regular basis too.

Buckwheat, Millet & Spelt Pillows

I have to admit I haven’t tried these, but they may be worth investigating if you like a really firm pillow.  I’m assuming that anyone with coeliac disease or a severe gluten intolerance should probably avoid the spelt pillow and opt for the millet or buckwheat instead, as they are gluten-free fillings.  The millet is smaller and more sand-like, whereas the spelt husks are bigger and have a more massage-like effect on the body.  They also have a high silica content and are considered to help prevent muscle aches and pains.  The buckwheat pillows are robust and supportive while still being light and airy.  They are a great option for anyone who tends to sweat up a storm at night, as they allow moisture and heat to evaporate quickly.

Natural Latex Pillows

I have also not tried natural latex  filled pillows, but they offer a firm support and are a bit bouncy.  They’re also good for people who suffer from dust allergies because they cannot support the growth of bacteria, germs and moulds.  They’re not for people with chemical sensitivities though (lots of people have latex allergies), and some people can detect a slight smell of latex the first few times they use the pillows.

Horsehair Pillows

I’m just gonna say it.  I don’t see myself sleeping on a pillow filled with Black Beauty’s tail.  I don’t care how ethical the sourcing is.  But the advantages to a horsehair pillow are that they provide a medium firm support and are another great one for anyone who gets the night sweats, as they regulate moisture well.  They are warm and dry and the horsehair is said to have anti-rheumatic qualities.

Kapok Pillows

So I’ve saved my absolute favourite for last.  These pillows are incredibly luxurious. If you didn’t know you were sleeping on Kapok you’d swear you were sleeping on the softest down pillow ever.  And its vegan friendly, so if you don’t use animal based fibres in your home, then kapok means that you don’t need to resort to using synthetic fibres. So what the heck is kapok?  Well its a sort of silky fluff which comes from a tree which grows wild in tropical forests.  So while they’re not ‘grown organically’ there’s never any pesticides on them.  These trees are an important part of local economies and therefore are always very well looked after.  The kapok fibre itself contains naturally bitter compounds and that makes it really unattractive to dust mites and other creepy crawlies in general (that was a win for me!) and the fibres are also covered in a sort of wax which cannot absorb or retain moisture, so your  kapok pillow or duvet will always be dry, no matter how damp the weather outside.  Kapok pillows can be washed and tumble dried, but what I love about the one I have is that the organic cotton quilted cover and inner cover can be unzipped, and the soft, downy kapok filling removed while the fabric is being washed.  So if you only want to fluff and ‘air out’ your kapok filling from time to time, its much easier to do so.

OLOL Kapok Pillow

Conclusion

So whatever pillow you opt for, try to find one which provides the right level of support for you, one that is easy to clean on a regular basis (remember the mite faeces & carcasses I mentioned earlier?) and which comes from ethical and environmentally sustainable materials.  Remember that you and your partner don’t necessary need to have the same pillow – one of you might benefit from a firm buckwheat pillow, while the other luxuriates on the softness of kapok.  Personally I love supporting small, local producers and manufacturers.  My organic wool and kapok pillows are simply the best pillows I have ever had.  I can’t remember where my wool pillows from Canada were bought now (somewhere in Canada, obviously!), but the kapok pillows came from Greenfibres, a shop based down in Devon which also produces organic wool, buckwheat, spelt, natural latex and horsehair pillows in the same nifty design where you can remove the filling for airing, cleaning and to adjust the height and density of the pillow.  I’m just going to big up this shop a bit because they were incredibly helpful in talking me through the process of finding a new pillow – in fact I’d have never known about kapok pillows if it weren’t for them – and they’re on Etsy as well, so if you can’t find a local supplier in your own country, you can order them internationally as well.

And because I care about you guys and I really  hate the thought of you sleeping on dust mite poop, I’d also like to share with you this great, short video from Clean My Space which I discovered during the ‘nesting phase’ of my pregnancy and its where I learned how to clean and maintain my pillows and duvets:

Zero Waste Challenge – Roundup

So here we are at the end of the Zero Waste Challenge and nearly a month has gone by since it ‘officially’ finished, allowing me time to reflect upon the experience.

Week One

The first week was a learning curve, realising just how much non-recyclable plastic waste my local supermarkets (Sainsburys and Waitrose, I’m looking at you) use.  I emptied out a glass jar from my pantry and assigned it to collect all the non-recyclable and non-compostable garbage we would use in a month.  With one exception to this rule being the dirty nappies from my toddler.  No way I’m saving those up for a month!  (Although we use cloth nappies, we also use biodegradable nappies for night, but because they contain human waste after use, they have to go into the garbage rather than the compost bin…according to my friend’s bin man).  At least they will have decomposed in 4-5 years rather than 500 years like regular disposable nappies.

Week Two

Week two was more about changing my practices as a consumer and being more confident in demanding that my purchases create less waste.  I just started finding the whole experience less…well…less embarrassing to be honest.  So I now make sure that the fishmonger and butcher just wrap my purchases in paper (which they do anyway) but I ask them not to put them in a plastic bag afterwards and instead I place them in a washable bag.  I found that the most cost effective way of shopping with less packaging was by making a menu plan, creating a list and then going to the local village shops.  We are fortunate to have a local organic green grocers which also sells a lot of Middle Eastern foods, a fishmongers, a butchers and if you like wine, there is a shop which sells wines on tap from barrels and you can bring your own bottles to fill up.  I like using the local shops too because you don’t need to buy big packs of food and can order just as much as you need for your menu plan.  This helps reduce food waste.

Week Three

By week three I noticed that we were creating a lot more recycling, compost waste and bits of paper to go into the fire basket. I guess this was a by-product of me making sure that any packaged goods I did buy were in recyclable packaging. I think we’ll have to deal with that at some point, as even creating lots of recyclable waste still isn’t ideal. I was also finding it really frustrating to realise that there actually weren’t any bulk food stores around to get dry goods. I am from Canada and most of the supermarkets in my home country have a bulk foods section and there is even a great chain of bulk food stores that have been around since I was a kid, called the Bulk Barn. I don’t think I ever really appreciated it that much…until now when I realised that the only bulk food shops around  here are the big Whole Foods in Kensington (where I used to do my bulk food shopping when I worked around there), Unpackaged at Planet Organic in Muswell Hill and The Dry Goods Store in Maida Vale.

You also have to remember that even the most self righteous of zero waste shoppers can never be truly zero waste. Even those bulk foods come packaged somehow. So if, like me, there isn’t a local bulk food store in your area, there is a good argument for getting a bunch of likeminded local friends together and doing some bulk ordering of some pantry staples you use a lot of in your kitchen. You’ll just need someone who is a bit organised to pull it all together and you’ll need a good set of scales for dividing the order up fairly!

Week Four

I got really DIY-ey this week. Throughout the month I had been making the zero waste baby wipes for my toddler, but at this point I needed to replace some of my own personal care items and made a batch of my homemade deodorant (recipe coming soon!), as well as making my foaming hand soap  with a new essential oil blend of lemongrass and ginger for summer.  I really love doing DIY personal care items, but for me, they do have to work.   Especially the deodorant!  Unfortunately I haven’t found a homemade shampoo recipe that works well so at the moment I’m still using a commercial brand of shampoo which I like.  (If you know of an amazing DIY shampoo which actually works…tell me about it!)

At this point I also ran out of bamboo toothbrushes, so I made a new order on Amazon.  I don’t know why more people don’t buy these.  The bristles are made from nylon and they are exactly the same as the bristles on a normal toothbrush.  They just have handles made from bamboo rather than the mixed plastic handles of normal toothbrushes which end up in landfill because most recyclers won’t go to the trouble of separating the plastics.  I do appreciate the fact that ordering a toothbrush to come in a large cardboard Amazon box is not the most ‘zero waste’, however right now nowhere local carries the environmentally friendly toothbrushes and I do buy in bulk so at least I won’t have to buy them again until later in the year. Also, for my toddler I get these little Jack N’ Jill compostable toothbrushes for babies with cute little animals on them.

Conclusion

So, I have to say that my husband wasn’t the most co-operative partner in this Zero Waste Challenge and I did see a bit of non-recyclable packaging make it into the garbage can, so in addition to the night time nappy waste, over the month in total we produced a loosely filled 40 litre bag of garbage.  So as a household we were not entirely zero waste this month. However, excluding my husband and baby’s contributions to landfill…I do feel proud that my personal contribution to landfill from the whole of the month of June fit into the space of a Kilner jar.

OLOL Zero Waste Jar

Now, going forward will I chop my garbage up into small pieces and store it in a glass jar every month?  No, probably not.  Will I keep up the additional zero waste practices I’ve adopted over the course of the month?  Absolutely.  And I will continue to add to them as I can.  I’ve equipped our household with a few additional zero waste necessities, like pyrex glass and stainless steel water bottles to ensure we can take enough water on our outings and day trips and also some extra mason jars for food storage, snacks, layered salads and the like.  I already have my favourite glass standard barista size Keep Cup which my husband bought me last year and which I carry with me everywhere so I can get coffee on the go.

I’ve also started doing a bit more “from scratch” in the kitchen like cooking up dry pulses in slow cooker (avoiding tinned and boxed black beans and chick peas) and making my own cashew milk and storing it in glass bottles, thus saving on the high cost of nut milks and also the packaging they come in.

I could feel like a failure and just give up entirely thinking “oh that zero waste thing didn’t work out for me”, but I think that actually we’ve made some great steps this month towards living a reduced waste lifestyle in the long-term and that will have significantly more environmental impact than one zero waste month experiment would have.  And I’m happy with that.  And even my husband is now getting into the swing of things…even though he still thinks some of it is pretty weird.

And now head on over to my fellow green blogger MumBalance to see how her family did with their Zero Waste Challenge.