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Plastic-Free Picnics

Now that the summer weather has officially arrived and restrictions are easing, we’ve started thinking about going out more, or you know, going out at all! (I think my son was surprised that there are more than 5 people in the world!) After over a year in shielding we had to have a good think what we would need to go out and about now we have two small people in tow, if we wanted to go to the beach or for a picnic.

So here’s our tips & ideas for a sustainable summer, including my Top 10 Sustainable Swaps & Product Recommendations.

Tips & Ideas for Plastic Free Picnicking

  • Make your own dips & salads, rather than buying pre-prepared ones in plastic packaging from the supermarket. A great homemade hummus recipe is this one from The Pesky Vegan. You could even have a go at making your own crackers or pittas to dip in your homemade sides.
  • If you’re having soft drinks, choose options from cans or glass bottles, rather than plastic bottles, we love cordials as you can stretch them so much further by diluting with water. If you want to you could give making your own cordial a go (extra hippie points if you forage your own elderflowers 😉 – seriously though foraging is great fun, but only forage for small amounts from areas with plentiful supply and only if you are 100% certain of what the item is and that it’s edible. Here’s two great articles on foraging for beginners from National Geographic and BBC Good Food.)
  • You can get some great snacks for on the go from your local zero waste shop or refill store, popping kernels for making your own popcorn, or choose from a selection of nuts and snacks like spiced chickpeas, banana chips, etc. You could also use their assortments of nuts and dried fruits to make your own custom trail mix.
  • Avoid ice in bags from the supermarket, by making your own at home in silicone ice cube trays (we have tons of these from making and freezing portions of baby food for when our daughter was weaning), or freeze bottles of water use a coolers in your picnic bag, they’ll keep your picnic nice and chilled and your drink will have melted en route and be lovely and cool. You could also try frozen grapes which will cool drinks and make a great snack when you’ve finished.

Top 10 Sustainable Summer Ready Swaps

1.Reusable Straws:

Plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however several alternatives:

Stainless Steel Straws are washable, and much more durable. They are BPA free and unlike plastic will not interact with and leak chemicals into the drink you are consuming.

Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals.

Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, these ones are made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving!

2. Travel Cutlery Set:

Avoid the traditional plastic cutlery of picnics past and invest in a reusable travel cutlery set, made from bamboo or metal which you can carry on you for takeaways, work lunches, food on the go etc. They’re stylish as well as sustainable and it stops all that waste of single use plastic going to landfill.

bamboo travel cutlery

3. Reusable Water Bottle:

Instead of endless plastic bottles, opt for a reusable stainless steel or glass bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so you can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water – look out for councils or shops that are part of the refill scheme.

Our Reusable Glass Bottles are made from BPA free and fully recyclable materials and provide a clean and pure drinking experience.

4. Lunch boxes

Picnics and packed lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.

Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry. Many lunchboxes have sections, so you can do away with the individual tupperware and snack packs and put your own products in loose. If you do want Tupperware you can opt for glass or glass/bamboo combo versions. Or why not store snacks in reused jars, we have snacks in old curry sauce jars that we’ve cleaned and relabelled.

5. Wax Wraps

Similarly you can avoid the clingfilm and plastic packaging by choosing wax wraps for your sandwiches and other homemade goodies.

food wrap

6. Takeaway Cup

Whether you want a hot drink or an iced coffee, a fruity tea or just juice, taking a reusable travel cup with you let’s you ditch the disposable and many have the benefits of being insulated or double walled to keep your drink at the right temperature for longer.

7. Travel Wash Set

A great choice for the holidays we are now allowed on, whether you’re desperate to jet off or you’re choosing a Great British Staycation, maybe even just for long awaited visits to far away friends and family – a travel set is a great option for you to be low waste and avoid all those plastic travel miniatures, without having to take your full bars from home in individual tins.

safety razor

8. Sun Cream in Tins/Refills

Yes this is now an option, some zero waste shops are now able to offer sun cream refills and the majority will likely have aluminium tins of sun cream available. I find the tins are easier to get the sun cream out of rather than faffing with the spray bottles that don’t work unless they’re completely upright.

9. Toothbrush Case

Great for when you’re away from home, bamboo toothbrush cases keep your brush clean and hygienic. We have both adults and children’s toothbrush travel cases in the shop.

10. Reusable Bag

Keep your picnic out of plastic and opt for reusable bags to carry your stuff on trips out or for shopping. Fold up, cotton or net bags are brilliant for stashing on you so you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you do any impromptu shopping.

This organic cotton bag is a great choice as it folds up small but is spacious and stylish.

Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your zero waste needs.

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How to: Salt dough Decorations

One of the favourite craft projects in our house is homemade salt dough! My daughter loves making salt dough ornaments, and I love that I always have the supplies on hand to mix up this salt dough recipe.

This Christmas we’ve spent a day making salt dough ornaments for our tree. It’s a wonderful family activity that ends with us having beautiful ornaments that will last for decades!

Recipe

The recipe for these ornaments doesn’t get any easier. You need exactly three ingredients:

  • Plain/ All-purpose flour (4 cups)—I recommend sticking with all-purpose flour here because it’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, and it creates the most consistent color.
  • Table salt (1 cup)—Again, make sure to add the salt to preserve these ornaments! Just go with the generic brand table salt here.
  • Warm water (1 1/2 cups)—The warm water helps the dough come together a little bit easier. Plus, you’ll knead the dough with your hands, and warm dough is so much more comfortable to knead in the winter!

Chances are, you’ll have all the items you need to make these ornaments already in your house. Here’s a general list of what we used to make our ornaments:

  • Mixing bowl and large spoon
  • Parchment paper/silicone baking mat
  • Rolling pin
  • Biscuit cutter
  • Toothpick, straw or skewer—for poking a hole for the ornaments to hang from
  • Baking tray
  • Craft glue to make a varnish for the ornaments
  • Paints and paintbrushes
  • Ribbon/twine/wire for hanging the ornaments
  1. In your large mixing bowl, place the flour and salt. Stir until well combined. Then, slowly pour in the warm water while stirring. Keep stirring until you’ve added all the water.
  2. You’ll get to a point where it is too hard to stir with a spoon. Put it down and use your hands to mix it well, like you would any other dough.
  3. Once the dough starts to come together, keep kneading with your hands for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable.

Now that your salt dough is made, you can use it just like you would modelling clay to make sculptures, or you can roll it and cut it out to make ornaments or salt dough handprints. This time we made Christmas ornaments:

If you’ve ever rolled and cut out sugar biscuit, you’ll be an expert at doing with the salt dough! (This is my daughters favourite part) Here’s the process:

  1. Sprinkle a little flour on your parchment paper or silicone baking mat and roll out the dough until 2-4mm thick. You want to err on the side of a thinner dough because if it is too thick, the ornaments tend to split or break easily because of air pockets that get trapped in the middle.
  2. Then cut out your shapes using cookie cutters, and put on your silicone baking sheet or you baking tray lined with parchment.
  3. Take a skewer, toothpick, stainless steel straw, or any other pointy/pokey object, and poke a hole in the top of each ornament for a ribbon to hang from.

Bake the ornaments in a 120°C oven for 1-2 hours depending on the siege and thickness of your decorations. This isn’t an exact science, because inevitably, your shapes won’t be 100% even in thickness. They are done when they feel hard. They are really done if they start to brown (don’t worry if they do go a bit brown, you can just paint over the brown bits!). Let the ornaments cool completely before decorating.

I used acrylic paints and gave my daughter her regular paints and brushes. I stuck with the colour scheme of the room the tree is in, and my daughter used the toddler method of all the colours at once – but it’s really up to you to get creative on how you want to decorate.

Once all your decorating is dry, you need to seal these ornaments so they last a good, long while. While the salt does an excellent job of preserving the salt dough itself, sealing the ornaments will help keep all the decorations you just lovingly decorated looking great for years to come.

Make the “varnish” with one part glue to two parts water. I just do one coat on each side and let it dry completely in between. We used our cake cooling racks for this.

String up the ornaments using pretty ribbon or twine, and then put those beautiful new ornaments on your Christmas tree! These could also be used to make wonderful, thoughtful gifts

Our tree this year with its lovely new salt dough ornaments
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Why Zero Waste?

zero waste bathroom

So why try zero waste? Maybe you’re an environmentalist, a nature or an animal lover, you might want to be more frugal or give self-sufficiency a go. You might have watched documentaries about climate change and rising temperatures, seen images of oceans full of plastic straws on the news or read articles about melting polar ice and turtles caught up in lost fishing nets. Whatever your reason for taking steps to a more sustainable way of living, any changes you make, however small can make a difference.

For us, the reason why my family and I began to make more eco friendly purchased and sustainable choices was that we felt that the fast-paced, throw-away society of over consumption was so far disconnected from the natural world and the way we wanted to live and the culture we wanted to raise our children in.

We started our journey in early summer 2019, when after attending several vegan food and craft fairs, and speaking to volunteers from a plastic free programme, our eyes were opened to the damage being done to the planet. We watched documentaries and read articles and we decided that we needed to play our part, however small, in helping our planet and making a brighter future for our daughter. We went vegan overnight and we made a plan to start phasing plastic out of our lives as soon as we could and to do the best we could to make ethical and sustainable choices so that our impact on the world around us was a small as we could possibly manage.

When we used up the last of the shampoo in the bottle, we bought a plastic free bar to replace it. Items we bought were transitioned to more ethical brands. As soon as we had the money, we invested in cloth nappies for our daughter and loved that not only were we helping reduce the plastic going to landfill but she also had natural chemical free materials on her skin, we wished we had done it sooner and when our son was born this year we were so pleased to be able to cloth him from birth.

We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.

– Howard Zinn

We aren’t perfect by any means and we could still do and have plans to do more, but we are on our own journey to zero waste and taking steps forward whenever we can.

We buy fruit and veg locally to avoid the plastic wrapped offerings of the supermarkets, we cook from scratch more, we’re growing some of our own food, and making our own cleaning products, disposables have been swapped for reusables, clothes are repaired or repurposed, and any new purchases are thought through and properly considered first, choosing ethical and sustainable options.

We aren’t at zero waste yet and would rather classify ourselves as ‘low waste’ but we are doing something to save our planet and fight climate change, we’re protecting the animals and the natural world affected and were helping to make a more sustainable world for our children to live in.

When trying to make zero waste living work for you, it’s important to keep your own personal ‘why’ in mind. If you don’t, it may be difficult to sustain or to keep moving forward. Any changes you set out to make might not stick unless you feel the motivation to do so, and the small changes you do make will give you confidence to keep going. So find your why, and start making small habit changes. Don’t know where to start? Follow our blog for inspiration and ideas.

“Going plastic free is a lifestyle change. Take your time and don’t beat yourself up if something goes a little wrong. Simply start again.”