Keeping packaging free back at work

Holiday is over and I’ve been back at work for two weeks now, but junk free January continues…

I’ve managed to stay packaging free, but this has involved quite a lot of use of cafes for lunch, so far. Rather than buying some packaged food, I’ll either sit down in the cafe (hardly a hardship, it’s very relaxing), or take my lunch box along and ask if I could have the food in that. They take us out for lunch at work quite a lot too which is excellent!

People have been surprisingly ok with the lunch box, and my regular places now don’t raise an eyebrow. I’ll definitely keep on with this after January. It feels really good not to have a pile of plastic & card containers going into the bin, take away work lunches were one of the biggest causes of junk in my life.

One big change is the lack of lack of black tea at work. We have a regular tea round, maybe 4 or 5 a day, and though I love herbal tea, it’s not the same. I hadn’t realised how big a role milky tea plays in stopping me getting hungry. However, it’s good to cut down on caffine a bit, and rosebud tea, lemon verbena tea and green tea from Food for All are delicious.

Outside of work, I’ve been having muesli with rhubarb, baking apple, ginger & raisin puree instead of milk for breakfast, and baking a bunch of potatoes on the weekends as the basis for quick & easy evening meals when I traipse home late.

Yesterday was a big baking day – potatoes, rhubarb concoction, and a Jamie Oliver recipe for blackened aubergines (cook whole in the over for an hour, scoop out the middles and mix with cumin, garlic, lemon, oil etc, to make a topping). Also got hold of some fish from a fishmonger using my trusty lunchbox.

Highlight of the weekend was getting hold of loose cocoa nibs from Mother Earth in Newington Green – they are as addictive as chocolate and I highly recommend them!

 

 

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Keeping your PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – motivation going.

This is a very inspiring post from PALL about the benefits of refusing plastic and how to stay motivated. There are also simple tips on how to go about it without affecting your lifestyle.

How much plastic would you have refused over 3 years? Michelle has refused over 10,000 items. That’s a lot less harm for the environment.

Being-PALL

For a long time when I first started Being PALL – Plastic A Lot Less – I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. I felt my efforts were futile.  I mean, I´m just one person what difference do I make?  Everywhere I looked we´re drowning in plastic.

Refusing plastics means you don´t have much to show for it.

Then, a few years ago in 2011 I was tallying it up in my head just how much I refused when I was out food shopping once.  In just that one food shop. A lot, bags of it… To give you an idea, this is me in a before shot:

I´d been Being PALL 3 years at that point, imagine what I´d refused in all that time?

Obviously, I had too much time on my hands, so I sat down and did a tally. It was rough…

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Save a Packet, the “scoop and save” loose-food shop of Kingsbridge, Devon.

I’m the Devon end of Junk-Free January and I’m very fortunate to have a shop in my neighbourhood called Save a Packet. They’ve been very supportive of the project. Here are some of the things you can buy there. They’re very happy for you to take your own containers.

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Almonds

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Organic Spelt Flour and Organic Granary Flour
Organic Spelt Flour and Organic Granary Flour

At Save a Packet, it’s possible to buy:

  • Rice – several varieties.
  • Salt
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Lentils of various sorts.
  • Flour – including organic spelt flour and organic maize flour
  • Baking Soda
  • Sugars
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Cocoa powder
  • Coffee
  • Sweets

And loads of other good stuff. There’s a more complete list here.

We’d be really interested to know if you have anything similar in your neighbourhood. If so, you’re welcome to leave a link and description in the comments section so we can support their good work. (of course you’re welcome to leave a comment if you don’t have one too 🙂 )

Making my own packaging-free almond milk.

It’s difficult to find milk without packaging and although it’s possible to get nice organic milk by the glass at my local farm-shop, (so it’s possible to fill your own container there), I’ve decided to make my own almond milk because I’ve done it before with delicious results and I can get loose almonds at Save a Packet.

Ingredients:

Whole almonds

Process:

Soak your almonds in water for 24-48 hours

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Drain and then blitz in a whizzer with a bit of water.

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You’ll get something looking a bit like this:

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Put a colander or sieve in a bowl or pan, and line it with muslin, cheese cloth, or a thin tea towel, and squeeze out the milk like this:

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You’ll end up with some dried bits of nut in your cloth, and lovely almond milk in your dish.

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Then you can bottle it and put it in your fridge. You could add a bit of agave syrup, or something similar if you wanted to sweeten it up.

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And then make some nice coffee

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With the dried bits, you can either find a yummy culinary use for them (it tastes good in flapjacks) or you can find some lovely ladies who might appreciate it.

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Enjoy!

Brushing teeth with bicarbonate of soda.

I couldn’t find a toothbrush which didn’t come in packaging, but a much more environmentally friendly option, and mostly plastic-free, is the “environmental toothbrush”

I had been getting myself used to the taste of bicarb before the challenge by using the Kingfisher Bicarbonate of Soda toothpaste, so it didn’t come as too much of a shock to me.

I managed to get hold of loose bicarbonate of soda from my local loose foods shop, Save a Packet. All I do is wet my toothbrush and dip it in the powder, or sometimes I’ll wet my finger and distribute some evenly around all the teeth, and then bush as usual.

I’ve found that it leaves my teeth and mouth feeling really clean and my teeth are looking whiter already.

There is a lot of mis-information out there saying that bicarb is too abrasive, when it’s actually a less abrasive than store-bought toothpaste. If you’re interested in the figures, the Relative Dentin Abrasivity RDA values (how abrasive they are: a lower value = less abrasive) of all the main toothpastes, and bicarb, are listed here http://www.levysmiles.com/faq/best-toothpaste  Baking soda has an RDA of 7. The toothpastes range from 35-200.

Here is some information from the “Arm and Hammer” website about brushing with baking soda.

  • It is clinically recognised as an incredibly powerful cleaning agent by dissolving deep into tooth surface crevices.
  • Despite its highly effective cleaning powers, it remains significantly non-abrasive and incredibly gentle, making it ideal for dental use.
  • Baking soda maintains a good pH balance inside your mouth by neutralising any acids. This keeps your breath fresh for hours.
  • Baking soda has the power to whiten teeth. It is so efficient at removing deep engrained stains that subsequently your teeth get whiter.

I don’t know enough about the long-term usage of baking soda, but I know a lot of people have been successfully using it without problems, and it seems good to me so far.

Toothbrush and baking soda.

Experimenting with packaging free deserts and snacks

Five days in to our no packaging challenge and I’ve become a bit obsessed by food. I have a sweet tooth, and would often pick up some kind of chocolately desert to eat for tea at home. So what can fill the void, when anything in a plastic or paper container is banned?

I’m hoping to sometimes buy cakes without wrappers, but so far I’ve not been organised enough to take an empty container with me to work to take one home… and cake slices without packaging are harder to find than you’d think. Today I wandered round the train station thinking I’d just sit down and have some cake on a plate, but all the cakes & muffins had wrappers, and I ended up with an apple (and a free sample from a chocolate shop 🙂

Until I get a bit more organised, this month is making me healthier, not such a bad thing after all!

Bananas have taken on a new significance as a snack, I try and make them more interesting by slicing them up and adding nuts and the like. The excellent Mother Earth shop in Newington Green, which does a huge range of healthy refills, also sells chocolate button type sweets from a jar, so those got added too.

They also sold cocoa powder, so I have plans to make ‘raw’ chocolate brownies, something like the ones described here. As well as the cocoa powder, I’ll need dates, walnuts, something sweet (banana?), and coconut oil (this seems to be a recurring theme). My partner in junk free-ness is working on a cunning plan to get hold of this precious substance.

The best proper desert so far was a rhubarb and bramley apple bake with ginger – this is a bit tart (haven’t got sugar yet) but makes you feel really good. I’ve managed to find loose oats and muesli so next time I’ll use this as a topping.

For savoury snacks, I’ve been toasting pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and eating lots of olives which a kindly local shop sold me in my own box.

Junk Free January – the first three days

3 days into our challenge of making it through the month without packaging, and I’m settling into new ways of shopping and cooking.

After a cupboard clear out, I set about stocking up on food that came loose. Finding Food For All in Stoke Newington was a great start – they provided rice, lentils, and teas (rose buds, lemon verbena and chamomile so far), along with some clay that I’m hoping to use for a face mask at some point.

Finding oil was the most difficult part. After just 2 days I was getting a bit glum about the prospect of a month of boiled/ steamed/ baked food, but lo! Mother Earth in Newington Green, which I just found today, have very nice olive oil from a barrel, and let you use your own bottle. They also sell lots of loose whole foods including red lentils, so I can make dhal, and powders such as cocoa 🙂

It’s funny how important herbs and spices have become – after 2 days of plain rice & lentils.

In the bathroom, Lush’s solid shampoo and conditioner are doing a good job so far, and normal sewing thread is just about cutting it as dental floss. Now I’ve got olive oil I might try using that as a night moisturiser if my skin gets really dry. I also have a stack of lush pots, a mission for next week is to see if I can get anything like moisturiser from them as a refill.

I’ve had to cheat on toothpaste, using the next best option of Lush’s pill-shaped ‘toothy tabs’ which come in a small cardboard box, and loo roll, but the very helpful assistant at Mother Earth pointed me to a market which might sell loose bicarb of soda, and loo roll too.

This set of toothpaste recipes on the Mass Report site look brilliant (not convinced about the dangers of fluoride but still the article is useful)… and then there’s a chocolate toothpaste recipe on the living traditionally site. Both use coconut oil – I wonder if I can get hold of loose coconut oil too.