All posts by wheelysnail

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!




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.

Hunting the scoop & save shops

A friend reminded me of the name for what I was calling ‘refill shops’. I’m thinking of the 80s/ 90s, no frills, low cost shop that remember my Dad getting soap refills from when I was little. They were ‘scoop and save’ or ‘weigh and save’ shops.

A bit of digging later and I find that they do still exist, but sadly for me, they are mainly in the North. This excellent blog ‘Weigh and save shops‘ on the Plastic is Rubbish site explains the situation and lists some of the existing shops.

I’m surprised that these shops aren’t more in demand as the source of bargains. Some others are thinking the same over on the MoneySavingExpert website, which has a thread about these shops, with locations.


Food for All is an amazing whole foods refill shop

Tomorrow, we start our challenge – making it through January without buying anything with packaging, be it plastic or paper. Yesterday, I tried finding ‘refill shops’ – shops that sell loose goods, in North London.

There were some disappointments. Unpackaged, a shop dedicated to package-free goods, is currently closed down. Borough Wines, which I’d heard sold olive oil refills, no longer does this – apparently their supplier put up the price. The person I spoke to didn’t rule out stocking it again, I hope they do… but it might be too late for our challenge. Whole Foods Market in Stoke Newington only provides refills for Ecover products, and you have to ask at the till for this – pretty poor, given its name.

The hero of the day was Food for All, on Cazenove Road next to Stoke Newington railway station. The last shop on my search, I was pretty glum by the time I got here, but cheered up right away. This small independent shop has a friendly atmosphere, good ethics, good prices, and a huge range of loose goods – all the herbs, spices and teas you can think of and more, meusli, different kinds of rice, lentils, etc. I’ll pretty much be shopping here during January and beyond 🙂

Where are the refill shops!

January is drawing close, so today’s mission is to find what I think of as ‘refill shops’ in North London.

I’m thinking of little independent shops, not necessarily branded as health food shops, with products like liquid soap, detergent, nuts, seeds etc available loose.

An internet search isn’t bringing up much so maybe I’m using the wrong term – or maybe there is no standard word for these shops. Jenny & I have sometimes wondered whether these little shops are overlooked by the kind of people who shop at health food shops, because they don’t have an ‘eco’ brand, or the expensive prices that sometimes go with this.

I remember one in my hometown that we used to shop at, that eventually closed down.

The search so far is not encouraging.

A depressing Independent article ‘Shoppers’s green fatigue hits refill revolution‘. The main theme is the failure of mainstream chains to take up refilling. It does mention a chain called Whole Foods.

Also sad – it looks like there was an amazing refill shop trying out the ‘eco-branded’ route in Hackney, called Unpackaged… which has closed 😦

The website says it’s coming back. I hope so. In case you’re listening, please come back soon Unpackaged!

Starting to think I’m going to have to cook without any oil for the whole of January!!

My search did suggest a nearby Mother Earth health food shop, and I’m also on the trail of a little herbal shop in Stamford Hill/ Stoke Newington which I think might be called Food for All.

More later!

Quick update: According to the Metro article ‘Plastic ain’t fantastic, refill instead to reduce your waste‘, Borough Wines in London might do olive oil refills..

(P.s dental floss experiments with embroidering thread not working… maybe tooth picks are the way forward).

Trash Backwards provides some inspiration for junk free dental floss

I just came across Trash Backwards, a very interesting blog with suggestions for reducing your junk, with a focus on re-using every day items.

The thing that lead me there was the search for a dental floss alternative – I’m a bit of a dental floss addict and am worrying about how to find a package free alternative. Unfortunately this excellent stuff comes encased in a little but sturdy plastic case… I seem to have accumulated a  small collection. If only they were like sewing machine spools that could be re-threaded from a monster size one that would last you a year 🙂 I guess something like this must happen in the factories that produce them.

Various alternatives have come to mind, including celery strings, but I fear they won’t be up to the job! My search brought me to Trash Backward’s Zero bathroom waste article, which suggests a range of products from ‘The natural dentist’, including wooden picks in a card package.

They sound good but we are trying to avoid card packaging as well as plastic. One of the comments to the article (from user ‘Mind Bird’, thanks) suggests using quilting thread, which oddly enough I happen to have around.

I’ll try it out & report how it works out!