Category Archives: Ecology

Eco Friendly Kids Room Ideas

We recently redecorated our daughter’s bedroom. I won’t say it was a total eco job, as due to her large scale artistic proclivities (i.e. she draws on the walls) we had to use special washable paint on the walls rather than a natural pigment paint like Frenchic. Also the gorgeous giant tree and animal decals on the wall aren’t very eco friendly, but I know she’ll enjoy them for a very long time. I was originally planning to paint something myself – like a totem pole mural – but my husband ordered them on a whim and she loves them, so that’s that.

1. Toy & Book Baskets

These beautiful baskets from the Sourced by Oxfam online shop are fantastic. They’re made from Kasia Grass by a pioneering fair-trade organisation called The Jute Works in Bangladesh. They empower socially disadvantaged rural artisans within the local indigenous community and those living with disabilities. They’re great for shoving toys and books into, but also make great laundry baskets too, really for any room in the house. Here’s the links for the smaller basket at £9.99 and the larger basket at £14.99. They’re beautifully made and are marvellous value, as I’ve spent far far more on similar items at Anthropologie and the Conran Shop in the past.

Honestly, I just like lots of trugs and baskets around my daughter’s room to make clean up easy for her.  At 3 years old she does have some household chores and one of those is the tidy up her own toys at the end of the day, to book any books back on the bookshelf and to put her dirty clothes in the laundry bin.  It doesn’t have to be neat or perfect or put away in the “right” spot, she just has to do it.  Does it reduce the amount of mess she generates during the day?  No.  Do I feel it’s good for her to have some routine and sense of ownership for simple responsibilities which will help her develop healthy habits as an adult?  Yep.

2.  Trade in Old Clothes for New

Surely I’m not the only person with the unsightly and ever growing bag of kids clothes my little one has grown out of.  I sometimes struggle with giving away “special” pieces to the charity shop, but I love the concept of Treasure House, where you can join up, get £15 credit to spend on second hand children’s clothes from their site, and they’ll send you a baggie in the post so you can send in your used and outgrown children’s clothes and they’ll give you more credit to use in their online shop.  I think it looks like a great idea and am excited to try it out. There’s everything from high street Zara, Levi’s and Boden to designer Chloe, Bonpoint and Marie Chantal. While I don’t really wear much designer stuff myself these days (nothing new at least), I must admit I do enjoying spoiling my little girl with pretty pieces and it does help declutter.

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3. Choose Natural Materials

Now, I’m not gettin’ preachy on y’all here.  We love our Playmobil, Tiger Trunkie, giant Melissa & Doug giraffe and plastic baby doll with matching stroller as much as anybody else.  But there is a gentle feeling to a child’s room which is filled with more natural materials.  It softens the space somehow. In our home, this means decorating with natural baskets, using unbleached organic cotton bedding, thick cotton drapes, a simple wooden bed, and more wood, felt and paper toys as well as a good wardrobe of dress up clothes.

Our daughter and her friends all love their wooden balance boards. They use them as side-to-side rockers, turn them into bridges and ramps and integrate them into their imaginary play.  We bought ours from a company in Hungary called Creatimber and they come in lots of colour options. They’re hand crafted, eco friendly, and they help improve children’s body awareness, spatial awareness, balance and coordination skills, they help build self confidence and encourage creative sensory play.

We are also about to commit to doing a regular nature table in our daughter’s bedroom as she loves collecting all sorts of seasonal bits when we go out – conkers, pebbles, leaves, sticks, seashells…you get it.  Setting these out on a table with a few decorations, such as naturally dyed play silks to create grass, ground, lakes and rivers (my grandmother bought our daughter hers from an Etsy shop) and some lovely Holztiger and Ostheimer  wooden animals from Germany looks quite magical.

 

How to Conserve Energy in the Bedroom

We’ve just moved our bedroom into the new loft space we had added to our house and with the new Velux windows and French doors, as well as improved insulation, we’ve noticed a huge difference in the temperature management of our house this summer and we’re hoping that will carry through into the colder months. It’s made us really conscious of our energy usage and while we will be saying no thank you to getting a smart meter, we will be trying to implement small, sensible measures to cut down on our energy usage. 

Here are some tips which I’ve asked SleepHelp.org to prepare to help you with practical tips to reduce your energy use in both summer and winter.

If you sleep eight hours every night, you’ll end up spending nearly one-third of your life in the bedroom. And yet, it’s easy to forget about energy conservation in a room where you’re usually unconscious. However, there are many things you can do to cut down on energy use while you sleep.

Check the Seal Around Windows and Doors

Windows and outside doors can be areas of significant heat loss so give the seals a good once-over every few months. Keep an extra tube of caulking on hand to seal any draughts you notice when the weather changes.

Start Temperature Management Early

You have to start thinking about temperature management before it gets too hot or cold in the bedroom. During the summer, block out light and heat with blackout curtains, heavy drapes, or blinds. In the winter, keep them closed when it’s coldest outside to prevent heat loss. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have your curtains open, but you’ll need to keep them closed in order to strategically to cut down on energy use.

Unplug and Consolidate Your Electronics

Even though you’re not using the television, it may be in standby mode which still uses power. Try using extension cords to plug all your electronic devices, including lamps and speakers, into a single power strip. At night and when they’re not in use, turn the power strip off. Flipping one switch is easier than walking around the room and unplugging every device.

Open the Windows and Doors

This one’s really only feasible during the summer, but it can cut down on your air conditioner use. If possible, open your windows and doors to let the cool evening breeze move through your house. Not only has fresh air been shown to help you sleep better and improve next-day performance, it brings the temperature down without the use of your air conditioner.

Adjust Your Bed for the Season

Your mattress and bedding are a big part of your comfort while you sleep. Today, more than ever, there are more organic and environmentally-friendly mattress options. You also can read our article on choosing the right natural mattress here.  Try to choose one that works with your climate to provide good temperature regulation. For example, plant-based memory foam mattresses usually keep heat and moisture against the body so, in general, they’re warmer. Innersprings and hybrids tend to allow more airflow and, therefore, are cooler. You can use your bedding to your advantage as well. Natural fabrics like linen and cotton have good breathability for summer and warm, soft flannel  bedding will help contain heat in the winter.  A wool blanket thrown overtop the duvet will help trap the heat and keep you cosy and toasty warm on cool autumn and winter nights too.

Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans may use electricity, but less than an air conditioner. They can be used in a couple different ways to help manage the temperature in your bedroom. Most of the time, the blades pull air up from the ground where it’s cooler. In this case, they keep the cool air circulating through the room. If your windows are open, they can also help pull air into the room. In cooler months, you can switch the direction of the blades, which will circulate warm air back to the ground. While you don’t want to have your fan on high in the winter, blowing warm air to the ground can heat your room up faster. (My family does this and I can promise, it really does work!)

With lights off and curtains closed, you’re ready to cut your energy use in the bedroom. Some of the other changes may require a little more time, but they’re worth it to lower your carbon footprint and reduce your energy bills.


 

This article was a non-paid collaboration written by Amy Highland, a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

The Natural Mama’s Beach Holiday Travel Essentials Guide

There’s no better way to get excited about your upcoming summer holiday than by going shopping for all your beach essentials.  Even the most eco-conscious of us aren’t immune to this pleasure, but some of us – quite rightly – temper that excitement with our concern for the environment and the health of ourselves and our children. So here’s some greener and healthier ways to join in with the summer joy of planning for your beach holiday.

Sun Protection

Sun protection of one kind or another is so important, especially for children.  Gettinghd_101323492_01
just 5 blistering sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer by up to 80%. So make sure you have a variety of ways to protect your skin.  Many drugstore sunscreens are full of parabens, oxybenzone and other chemicals linked to various types of hormone-disrupting cancers. But there’s no need to worry – there are plenty of options open to you. You can wear a beach cover up which covers the arms and chest well – and there are plenty of good second hand ones about, like this one which I’ve featured from the Oxfam online shop (click here to check out their full range of colours and options).

You should also invest in a good ocean-safe, reef-safe SPF sun cream each summer.  Some people make their own suncreams with coconut oil and essential oils, and if that’s your thing, go for it, but be aware there’s always the risk that you end up making a basting oil for your skin rather than a sun protectant.  While many oils and essential oils do have a natural SPF quality to them, there is no way you can guarantee that level of protection is still in the base ingredient product you’ve purchased without expensive testing. Instead, buy a non-nano, paraben-free, oxybenzone-free sun protection product which is as natural as possible. Suncreams like this new one from Weleda which I purchased at my local health food store last week are a great option.

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If Weleda is difficult to find in your area, consider the Thinkbaby and Thinksport sunscreens which I tried out on two separate occasions earlier this summer when visiting friends and I had to borrow some sun protection.  Thinksport do SPF 50 creams, but also a great SPF 30 face and body stick which is easy to apply to your face – kind of like a mini deodorant stick.  It’s a clean range of products which is easy to find in Canada, the US and the UK, and it’s been designed for serious athletes – so it will definitely be able to withstand your beach holiday demands! Plan ahead and make sure you have enough for your trip – you don’t want to end up like I did on my trip to Italy, having to buy horrible overpriced chemical-filled sunscreen at the pharmacy (you don’t want to know how much sun protection costs in Europe).

For kids I also recommend getting UPF 50 sun protection suits for the beach. When paired with a good wide-brimmed hat, it means you don’t have to worry about when they spend a bit too long in the sunshine – as they inevitably will.  I do buy these suits and shirts second hand for my daughter but do keep in mind that the sun protection factor in second hand suits might not be as high as it will be in a new suit.

Swimwear

You can get some great bathing suits and bikinis second hand like these ones at the Oxfam online shop (just give them a good boil wash after buying them). I’m a bit busty, however, so have never had luck finding second hand bikini tops that fit me.  In fact, finding any gorgeous bikini tops that will fit over a D cup is actually quite difficult. I wasIMG_20180723_124900.jpg gifted this beautiful black Boho Chic bikini from Hunkemoeller (I saw their gorgeous lingerie and swimwear boutiques all over Germany last month). It fits me so well – in fact this model ran a bit on the generous size, so I had return my first bikini top (thank you free returns!) and go a cup size smaller than my usual Panache bra cup size which looks amazing on me.  It ties at the top and the back , so you don’t need to worry about whether the band will be too tight or too loose, and the metal U bar in the front, allows the front of the bra to open easily for topless sunbathing (or easy breastfeeding, if you’re still nursing your child). They also had a variety of styles of bikini bottoms, so I was able to find the right cut to suit my derrière. (That’s not me below, btw!)

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After Sun

Don’t overthink this one.  Buy some pure organic aloe gel (like this one from Amazon which comes in a handy 200ml size).  Avoid those livid green and totally transparent Aloe-based concoctions you see at the supermarket and pharmacy – they have a lot of other stuff in them other than healing aloe. You can mix the aloe gel with a few drops of a good quality lavender essential oil (I use Young Living – see why here) to boost the skin soothing quality of the aloe. If you do get a bit too much sun, just rub in some of this into your skin and it will help cool you off and start to nourish your sun-damaged skin. Just keep reapplying as your skin sucks it in (and it will, depending on the severity of the burn).

Beach Bag

Don’t forget a beach bag to schlep around all your stuff. You don’t need to invest in something really134253_7 expensive – if you’re travelling on your own or with your partner, a small canvas shopping tote will work. If you’re travelling with kids the best thing are those big tacky re-usable supermarket bags which are fantastic for this purpose because they’re waterproof and hold tons of stuff like flippers, goggles, snorkels, sand-encrusted swim shoes, gazillions of towels, etc.

But I know that if you’re going back and forth to the beach club, you might want something a bit more chic than a massive orange Sainsbury’s bag proudly branding it’s elephant design emblazoned on the side. I’ve decided to splurge and treat myself to this black & white one from Hunkemoller UK to match my new bikini. It reminded me of some of the gorgeous bags I’ve seen in Anthropologie.  (I remember the days of disposable income. They’re long gone, but I do remember them!)

Sunglasses

For Pete’s sake, don’t forget a pair of sunglasses or you’ll be squinting in agony for the next two weeks. On my way back from Canada in June, I treated myself to a new pair of Oakley matte tortoiseshell Latch sunglasses at the duty free shop. (Yeah, I’ve given myself a few treats lately – what’s up with that?) I had been planning to get the folding Ray Ban Wayfarers, but discovered that they come in a leather case, which kind of didn’t flow with the whole vegan vibe.

Water Bottle

It’s pretty easy most places to access clean drinking water, so unless you’re travelling somewhere at particular risk for waterborne pathogens, just take your water bottle with you and for each member of your family so you can stay hydrated throughout the day.  Even if you go to a resort, its great having your own reusable cup bottle with you, so you can have the bar staff refill it with water for you from their filtered water systems.  I love my Yeti bottle because I can attach it to my bag with a carabiner – and yes, I bought it second hand.

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It’s also a great idea to take a reusable coffee cup (like a Keep Cup) or an insulated wine tumbler (yes, there is such a thing) so you don’t have to use plastic cups for your wine or cocktails, and they’ll stay cooler for longer in the sun. (Amazon have a wide range of insulated wine tumblers at various price points, and Yeti do a cool one too).

Sun Hat

Sun hats are such a personal thing, I’m not even going to show you an example here.  I have a great soft brushed cotton baseball cap I love from ethical clothing company Absolutely Bear which I wear for day trips and hiking all the time, but I probably won’t wear it on the beach on my trip to Spain, as I might want something which channels a bit more of a Sophia Loren vibe.  But whatever suits your style.

One thing I will say is, just take a sun hat.  Something foldable might be wise, so you can pack it in your luggage.  I have a gorgeous Panama style hat which I love, but it isn’t the easiest to travel with because I have to wear it for the whole flight, or make sure it doesn’t get crunched up in the overhead luggage compartment.

Sun hats are such a great and easy way to keep the sun off your face without worrying about whether your SPF cream has worn off and panda eyes are developing.  And as the (not so) proud wearer of many, many panda eyes in the past, may I say I have expert knowledge that it is worth avoiding.   (No make up will really cover those puppies up.) Just wear the hat.

Reading Material

It’s really important to have enough reading material on your trip.  On shorter trips I’ll usually just take a library book, but I also have started to enjoy borrowing my husband’s Kindle and I absolutely love Amazon Audible, so I can listen to audio books on my phone while on the plane and so I can keep an eye on my daughter on the beach. (Getting lost in a book isn’t really possible when you’re looking after children near the sea, lakes or the pool.) Here’s the link I used to get a free 90 day trial of Audible so you can see if it’s the kind of thing you would enjoy too – at the very least it will last you your holiday! They’re often read by the author or by someone with a delicious reading voice, like Mariella Frostrup. I recently listened to Swing Time by Zadie Smith and can highly recommend it.

And have a great holiday!  For more tips, check out my posts on eco travel, how to pack light and travelling with kids. Have I forgotten anything?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Resources/References:

Sun Protection – https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/just-five-sunburns-increase-your-cancer-risk/, https://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/16/health/sunscreen-report/index.html

Photo Credit: Hunkemoeller bikini shot – from https://www.hunkemoller.co.uk/uk_en/47-boho-chic-bikini-bottoms-black-123295.html, Hunkemoeller beach bag shot – from https://www.hunkemoller.co.uk/uk_en/47-doutzen-beach-bag-black-134253.html

 

 

 

Small Space Composting

I try really hard to be as green as possible, but when it comes to composting, I’ve not been able to get beyond buying those green biodegradable compost bags at the supermarket and tossing them into the big brown compost bin provided by the local council a few times a week. Basically I’m letting someone else do my composting for me, and then when I want compost for my plants at home, I go buy the expensive bagged up stuff from the garden centre. (So ridiculous!) So I asked fellow green blogger Kayla Kamp if she’d write something for me on composting, which is one of her areas of expertise. If you’re anything like me and are a beginner at composting and/or you live in a small urban space, the idea of composting can be a challenge. (Rotting food, worms, ewwww.) So my challenge to Kayla was to write something for people like me – beginners who don’t have a lot of outdoor space (or even any outdoor space at all).

I know I’m looking forward to learning more about composting and if you want to learn more too, Kayla blogs over at Ever Change Productions with the idea that we should create more and consume less. For the past 6 years, she’s been striving to inspire others to make use of their waste. Learn more about her story here.

Why You Should Compost – Even Without a Garden

With more people than ever moving into smaller spaces, it’s becoming increasingly important to share the good news that small space composting is possible!

A few years ago I got the composting bug. It seemed like a great way to reduce food waste and to take the next step in my young environmentalist journey. However, there was one small problem – I lived in an apartment.

I did have a little patch of grass that I used for a minuscule container garden, but I knew with all the composting myths that starting a compost bin would be out of the question. Plus, I didn’t have the skills to build a bin or the money for a composting tumbler. But once I get an idea in my head, it holds on tight, so I set out to find a way to a small space composting solution. For cheap.

Optimal Bin Size & Why It’s Important

Before we get too much further into this, let’s go over some composting basics.

The optimal bin size for a home compost pile is 3 square feet (1 square metre). Anything smaller might not heat up high enough to breakdown all the materials or it might lose heat and slow down the process. Air naturally penetrates a pile 18 to 24 inches (45 to 70 cm), which makes a 3 square foot (1 square metre) bin a manageable size.

A larger pile tends to hold too much water, which may create an anaerobic environment. It’s also much harder to turn, so it might be too much for some to manage without special equipment.

Today, there are some pretty creative ways to compost even if you don’t have access to that outdoor space.

What to Compost

Deciding what to compost depends on what composting set-up you use. For example, a common backyard bin needs a certain amount of carbon to nitrogen ratio to decompose efficiently. These are often referred to as greens and browns, but if you use a Bokashi fermenting process, you’ll only need nitrogen-rich ingredients. Worms need both carbon for bedding and nitrogen for food. But there are certain foods they can’t eat and certain bedding materials cause the bin to heat up as they break down.

Carbon, often referred to as browns, are the dry materials and nitrogen are the green, fresh materials. In a common outdoor compost bin, greens provide protein and moisture for organisms. The browns allow airflow throughout the pile and provides energy for organisms. To start off your pile it’s safe to add the same amount of brown material as you do green. The ideal ratio is 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.

Piles with too much nitrogen tend to smell sour, because the excess nitrogen converts into an ammonia gas. Carbon-rich piles break down slowly because there’s not enough nitrogen for the microbe population to thrive. See this list of comprehensive composting materials for inspiration.

Small Space Composting Options When You Have No Garden

If you don’t have a backyard, you might think small space composting isn’t an option. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Depending on whether you have a balcony, there are a few composting options that don’t require a yard or garden.

Worm Bins

Some people might prefer a wormless composting system, but plllleeeease give the worms a chance. They’re such hard workers and really easy to manage. If you manage the bin correctly, they won’t even bother you. They’re as happy as can be, just to hang out and eat without saying a word.

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is perfect for composting indoors. All you need is small plastic tote. I’ve even made a vermicomposting system using three cat litter buckets. You can read more about my vermicomposting system here.

If you decide to go this route, here is an affiliate link to Uncle Jim’s worm farm. They have great customer service and products. I will get a small percentage from each sale at no additional cost to you.

Pros

-Fits in small spaces
-Doesn’t need to heat up
-Doesn’t require turning
-Worms do all the work
-You get to play with worms! (This could also be a con, depending on your point of
view)

Cons

– Materials you can compost are limited
– They can’t eat some foods and some bedding materials will heat up the bin

Electrical Composter

Now this might blow your mind; it certainly did mine, but there is something called an electric composter. And if you have a serious aversion to any to the creepy crawliness of composting, then this might the answer for you. Seriously, this thing is so low maintenance. With a few hours and pushing a couple of buttons, you can have finished compost.

Pros

– You have finished compost in hours
– Perfect for people who don’t have much to compost
– Doesn’t require carbon-rich materials
– Can compost meat and dairy

Cons

– Can’t compost many scraps at a time
– Requires electricity
– Fairly expensive composting system
– Doesn’t have as many nutrients as traditional compost

Bokashi Buckets

Bokashi Buckets don’t follow other composting rules. Most of these other methods use aerobic decomposition. The bokashi system uses anaerobic, meaning it doesn’t use air to complete its decomposition cycles. The anaerobic component of bokashi buckets, means it doesn’t compost all the way. Instead, it ferments. At the end of the cycle, you have to bury the fermented ingredients, which might not be ideal for apartment dwellers. You can learn more about the bokashi bucket here.

Pros

– Fits in a small space
– Doesn’t require carbon-rich materials
– Can compost meat and dairy

Cons

– Doesn’t produce finished compost
– Requires burial to finish the composting process

Composting Options When You Have a Small Garden

If you have a rental home, duplex or even some apartments, you might be lucky enough to have a small yard. Although, the former options are totally open to you, you might have a couple more composting options.

Like I mentioned before, the optimal compost bin is only 3 feet (1 metre) wide. Before you set up any kind of composting bin, be sure to ask your landlord. There are tons of benefits for compost in the short term, but the long term benefits far outweigh any benefits of synthetic fertilizer.

Compost Bin

The optimal compost bin is 3 feet by 3 feet (1 square metre). You can build your own compost bin with unlimited materials, such as scrap wood, fence panels, even garden fence wire.

If you have the space, a compost bin is the best option because it’s the optimum size.

Other systems have other ways of dealing the lack of proper space, but a compost
bin is the perfect set-up.

Pros

– Can be made with any kind of structure
– Efficient compost

Cons

– Requires more space than some other systems
– Requires proper turning and water maintenance

Compost Tumbler

If a compost bin is out of the question because of space or other reasons, a compost tumbler is a good substitute. The tumbler requires similar conditions to a standard
compost bin.

Pros

– Easier to turn
– Doesn’t require a lot of space
– Doesn’t require permanent alterations in your yard

Cons

– More expensive than a compost bin

Green Cone

A green cone uses solar power to speed up the composting process and is able to compost 2 pounds of food per day. Not only does it compost more food in a shorter time frame, but also it can compost vegetable scraps, raw and cooked meat or fish, bones, dairy products and other organic food waste such as bread and pasta.

The Green Cone Composter has a basket installed below the ground, which forms the base for an above ground double-walled solar chamber with an access lid. The Green Cone Composter stands 26 inches above ground level and extends 18 inches below ground level. Access is through an 8-inch diameter hole in the top of the solar chamber, which is sealed by a hinged lid with a security catch.

Learn more about the Green Cone Composter here.

Pros

– Composts food quickly
– Doesn’t require carbon-rich materials
– Composts up to 2 pounds of food per day
– Can compost vegetable scraps, raw and cooked meat or fish, bones, dairy
products and other organic food waste such as bread and pasta

Cons

– Requires a yard
– Requires a hole in the yard

Small space composting is possible! If you’ve been looking for a sign to start composting, this is it! If you’re not quite sure, which of these composting options are best for you, take this free composting quiz. I’ll be checking back on this post, so feel free to leave any questions you have below.

Stuff You Should Never Put Down the Drain

Those living in rural areas with their own septic tanks have probably always been pretty conscientious about what they flush down the loo. If only because when something goes wrong, it’s pretty expensive to fix and you’re the sucka who’s gotta pay for it. But those of us in cities and towns whose waste just goes into the sewer system are generally pretty relaxed about what goes down the drain. Wet wipes, nappies, tampons, condoms, cooking fats and oils and coffee grounds.

I’ve always been fairly conscientious about using household cleaning products that won’t harm the water table after being poured down the drain, but lately I have become incredibly aware of other more…tangible problems in our sewers and waterways, as last September (2017) barely a couple of miles from my home there was a huge disgusting fatberg found in the sewers of Whitechapel which weighed over 130 tonnes and was over 250 metres long.

“A fatberg smells like rotting meat mixed with the odour of a smelly toilet.” – Thames Water Sewer Network Manager, Alex Saunders

So it got me thinking about not only what we shouldn’t be putting down the drain, but what can we do to make sure that these items aren’t only not clogging up the sewers, but not impacting landfill either, nor contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. UKDN have produced a list of the Drainage Dirty Dozen – items you shouldn’t be putting down your drain – and there’s a fantastic poster you can download, print and pop into your loo or kitchen. Its particularly handy if you run a cafe, community centre or other business where you can’t personally monitor what is going down your drains. As you’ll see from the list, there are quite a lot of things you really shouldn’t be putting down the drain, but here are my top 5 swaps you can make to reduce the impact you’re having on our environment and on your local sewer system.

1. Wet Wipes

The Problem: Okay, these are the nasties which, combined with grease and fats in the sewers, are mainly responsible for the creation of fatbergs and similar deposits. As a parent, think about how many wet wipes you use with your child. Even the “flushable” ones are bad. I used disposable Water Wipes with my daughter when we were out and about, as they were chemical-free and safe for her skin. But they weren’t any better in terms of environmental impact when it came to their disposal. I’m pretty sure that I always wrapped them up inside the dirty nappy before disposing of them in the bin, but I’ll bet there were at least a couple of times when I wasn’t thinking and tossed them down the loo.

The Solution: When my daughter was a baby, we used only DIY wet wipes at home and if I knew then what I knew now about wipes, I’d have bought a small wet bag and used them on the go as well as they’re so easy. You can make them to fit any budget – if you’re on a tight budget you can make them by ripping up old flannels and following my recipe in the video below. If you have a bigger budget, these Norwex baby body cloths are great and as they’re embedded with antibacterial silver, they limit bacterial growth so you only need to run them under the tap before and after use (then throw them in a 60 degree wash when you get home).

2. Nappies

The Problem: I have to admit it boggles my mind how on earth nappies are getting down the drain. Surely nappies are too big to flush? Nevertheless, they seem to be getting down there, so obviously someone is flushing them. The obvious answer here is…don’t flush your nappies down the loo. But the overall environmental impact of nappies is pretty harsh. Its estimated that in the UK 8 million nappies are being thrown away per day. Each one of those 8 million nappies per day takes around 500 years to degrade in landfill. I’ll let you do the math and think about the environmental consequences of that.

The Solution: One way you can minimise the risk of nappies ending up in landfill or sewers is by swapping to cloth nappy use – full or part time. By using cloth nappies you’ll also make a savings of around £500 per child. Most nurseries I’ve spoken to are really happy to use cloth nappies if you kit them out properly, so even if you’re not a stay at home parent, you can still use cloth nappies easily and benefit from their environmental and cost savings. We used AppleCheeks nappies as we found they worked best and had the best range of sizes, but there are lots of brands out there to fit all budgets and you can try out the different brands before committing to purchasing by visiting a nappy library. There are even brands out there producing hybrid cloth nappies which, while still creating some disposable waste, make travelling with cloth nappies totally possible. You can also do what we did, which is use cloth at home and in the local area, but eco-disposable brands (like Bambo and Naty) when travelling.

apple cheeks cloth nappies

3. Tampons

The Problem: We’ve all done it. (Well, those of us who use tampons, sorry boys!) We’ve all been in a public loo without a sanitary waste bin and just flushed our tampon. Its so easy to do…and they’re soooooo small. What harm can they do? Tampons are designed not to break down when they get wet (that’s how they, urm, do their job so well) and let alone worrying about the sewer, they’re probably going to clog your drain – very quickly. So even in North American and the UK, with our more robust plumbing, its still a big no no.

The Solution: Tampons are a cocktail of glyphosate, dioxin and chlorine, which is not

which of the following do you flush or pour down your bathroom drains?
really anything you want up your Queen Victoria. There are natural and organic brands of tampons available, but OMG when I made the swap to a menstrual cup, it was awesome! No irritation from constantly changing tampons all day, no worries about leaks and I could just go about my day without actually constantly remembering I was having my period. They’re made from medical grade silicone and so they’re easy to clean and sterilise between uses month to month. There are two sizes – size 1 for those of you who haven’t popped out babies and size 2 for ‘post childbirth’ women or women over 30. If you’re a really heavy bleeder, you can always pop on a pair of period pants which will absorb up to 1.5 tampons worth of blood (and yes, they also work). What I like about menstrual cups and period pants is that they are both better, easier and more comfortable and easier than the conventional solution. And of course cheaper. A good menstrual cup costs about $35/£19 and will last you for 10 years. (The 3rd solution is “mama cloth” which is homemade cloth sanitary pads you can get on Amazon and Etsy. Don’t bother unless you like feeling awkward, uncomfortable, a bit smelly and constantly worrying about leaks. Then go for it.)

4. Medications

The Problem: When we don’t finish medications (prescription or otherwise) we really don’t want them sitting around – especially if we have kids or vulnerable people in the house who could accidentally ingest them. If you flush your unused or expired medication or crush it up and pour it down the drain, those chemicals will leach back into your drinking water and the environment. Rather shockingly, the US FDA actually suggests that you SHOULD flush dangerous medications down the toilet (granted, its better than a child accidentally ingesting it) but really this is shockingly poor advice, as those drugs are going to affect the water table and even relatively safe drugs like the oral contraceptive pill will add hormones to the water which aren’t filtered out when water is prepared for consumption by treatment plants.

The Solution: The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee sensibly advises

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that you should always dispose of unwanted medication at your local pharmacy or police department as they will have access to medical waste disposal units. You should be aware that pharmacies are required by law to take back unwanted medicines from patients and it is their responsibility to arrange for safe disposal. For minor health conditions you may wish to look at more natural alternatives rather than pharmaceutical solutions for every small ache and pain. A great solution to ensure you’re putting your money where it needs to go when looking at natural health solutions is by reading PubMed research papers where there you can find plenty of high quality research providing evidence (or lack thereof) on natural remedies. My one caveat to this is that gold standard research is expensive and in many cases, the people with the money to spend on research (pharmaceutical and chemical companies which sponsor and fund many academic research projects), don’t necessarily wish to investigate low cost or free natural alternatives to their own products. Just because a natural alternative doesn’t have evidence supporting it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work (although it may not) – it means that the study may have been flawed (the wrong subspecies of botanical used, etc.) or that there hasn’t been any study conducted at all. Don’t worry though, there are usually plenty of natural options with good supporting gold standard evidence in their favour and this is where I would recommend someone puts their focus.

5. Grease, Oil & Cooking Fat

The Problem: Okay, so back to fatbergs. Its also not the big mega fatbergs you need to

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worry about – you also need to worry about smaller fatbergs forming in the sewer pipes underneath your property…which YOU are liable for (see here for details about which pipes are and aren’t your responsibility). Okay, so we don’t want local domestic fatbergs and we don’t want big urban fatbergs. But what are they? Can’t we just melt them with the hairdryer or something? Well, no, because they’re not just fat and baby wipes stuck together. Here comes the science! Fatbergs are more of a hard soap-like compound. They’re formed when the fats you pour down the drain go into the sewers and break down into their component parts of fatty acids and glycerol and bind to calcium (created from the corrosion of concrete amongst other things – or if you live in London where ISN’T calcium present?) which is found in the sewers. They then form stalactites and have to be ‘mined’ away like the Whitechapel ones have been.

The Solution: I have two solutions for you. The first is to not cook with so much fat. Do you really need to deep fry everything? Honestly despite what the popular media is saying about fat being the new broccoli or whatever, fat in its refined form (oils and other forms where it has been extracted from its whole food state) is not that good for you and is a pro-inflammatory food. I’ll admit that yes a bit of olive oil makes food taste lovely, but if you’re using more than a couple of teaspoons which are absorbed into the food you’re cooking then maybe you need to give pause for thought. But if you insist on making grandma’s deep fried apple fritter recipe and have a load of leftover oil or you’ve cooked a Sunday roast and there’s leftover ooky fat at the base of your roasting tray, you’re going to have to dispose of it in your household garbage and not by pouring it down the sink…or (like I see some London housewives doing) by taking it outside into the street and pouring it straight down into the storm drains!

This post is a collaboration with UKDN, the UK’s market leader in the wastewater industry.