Cutting down on Plastic & Chemicals

Recently, we’ve been trying to focus on cleaning up our lives a little bit. We want to throw away less plastic, put less chemicals in our water supply (and bodies) and generally try to eat a bit more healthily and ethically. We have recently gone back to getting a Riverford Fruit, Veg and Meat box which we have delivered weekly. We have always tried to eat predominantly vegetarian utilising the vegetables that we grow on the allotment. We do eat meat though, but like to be absolutely sure of the way that our meat has been raised. Riverford only send us organic meat which has been raised to high welfare standards. We supplement this sometimes with meat or fish from the farmers market but generally try to eat vegetarian the rest of the time. We’re starting to move this same policy over to other animal products as well. There’s no point in ensuring that our beef is organic if we’re going to buy intensively farmed milk or cheese. I’m going to try to avoid eating animal products when I’m eating out as well, unless I know the source of the ingredients. The other thing we’re trying to avoid is Palm Oil. Recently, as part of our Family Book Club, we read Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo about a young boy who is rescued by an elephant from the Boxing Day Tsunami back in 2005. A large part of the story is about how the forest is being cut down and replaced with palm oil plantations and Miss T decided there and then that she didn’t want to consume any palm oil that was putting the lives of Orangutans at risk. This is the first time she has made any dietary decisions based on her own ethical thinking, and we were proud that she even refused to purchase Nutella for her pancakes last month because it contains palm oil, even though it’s basically her favourite pancake/crepe filling ever! So we’re trying to avoid palm oil as well which is a little difficult as it’s in EVERYTHING! Even things that you wouldn’t think needed any kind of fat. My least favourite thing is stock cubes. I use too much stock to ever be able to only use my own home-made stock and basically all stock cubes contain palm oil in one form or another. The only one we’ve managed to find so far are Oxo Stock Pots which didn’t have palm oil on the list of ingredients, although confusingly I have just checked their website and the ingredients list appears to include palm oil after all – I can’t find the packaging any more so I’ll have to take a look in the supermarket when I’m next there to confirm. In the meantime we have found the WWF Palm Oil Buyers Score Card Website which gives information on whether or not brands are using a sustainable source. The Co-op and Tesco’s actually both score very highly so if in doubt go for a ‘shop’s own brand’.

The second aspect of our new anti-plastic/anti-chemical lifestyle surrounds cleaning products for both home and body. Mr B is leading on this with the help of Miss T (as it feeds her ‘slime making’ obsession that seems to have gripped the entire tween population recently). He has already made some lavender scented soap using some of the dried lavender flowers I have for making my herbal sleep pillows, but he has also been experimenting with a variety of other toiletries. We all have lovely eucalyptus bees wax lip balm and delicious lavender scented moisturising bars. He and Miss T also carefully made me a lovely Lavender, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang flavoured solid perfume and some ‘Whipped Body Butter’ for Mother’s day. They’re all pretty amazing.

Solid Perfume and Body Butter (and a Mother’s Day Card from Acacia, our pet mouse)

The slightly less successful attempt was to make liquid ‘Castille’ soap to use as a base for washing up liquid, washing liquid, liquid soap and shampoo. I’m not 100% sure of the ins and outs of what went wrong, all I know is that it’s too thick for my liquid soap dispenser to cope with but it cleans the dishes perfectly fine. In order to help this along, and to avoid throwing away too much plastic, I have also had a go at knitting a sponge. I used some yarn that I had left over from a hat I made WAAAAY back when I first started knitting. I had no idea what I was buying and just purchased it because I liked the colours. I have no idea what it is now but I’m pretty certain it’s 100% cotton. I used a pattern that I found on Ravelry as a basis but in short I used two strands (because it’s very fine) and 4.5mm needles. I cast on 20 stitches and garter stitched 26 rows, purled a row, and garter stitched another 26 rows and cast off. I folded it in half (with the ‘flat’ purled section on the outside) and whip stitched all round the edges. It’s basically two layers of garter stitch which has produced an item that has a lot in common with a dish cloth and a lot in common with a sponge whilst simultaneously being neither. My theory is that it is hard-wearing, can be slung in the washing machine with my tea towels and will be biodegradable at the end of it’s life. I’ve been using it for nearly a week and I’m pretty happy with it although, since washing up was never my strong point, I’m going to make some up and donate them to a beta testing group of friends and see if it lives up to the standards of people who maybe wash up more often than we do!

Cotton Knitted Sponge

In other knitting news, I finished the Bunny Ears that I started last week and am quite pleased with them. Miss T has decided that she wants to wear them so they’re hers. I have started that Rabbit Ear Hat pattern that I found using Stylecraft Special DK in ‘Sandstone’ which is a lovely brown and cream combination. I bought it along with a ball of ‘Charcoal’ for a customer who wanted an Octopus Dice Bag that looked like a specific picture of an octopus. I decided that the black and cream was better suited so have had the brown one sitting in my stash. I’m combining this with some cheap Robin Double Knitting yarn in a cream colour. I have learned how to do a three needle cast off whilst making this hat which is quite exciting.

I hope you’re all having a good week and looking forward to the warmer spring weather.

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