Is it worth it?

I’m reading a lovely book called Sucking Eggs: What Your Wartime Granny Could Teach You about Diet, Thrift and Going Green. I saw in my local library and the title immediately grabbed my attention!

I am equally amused & impelled and by some of the comments in the chapter on fashion. Whilst I have never queued up for a piece of designer something. I think on some level we can all relate, we are all being sold things that we don’t need.

“A wartime mantra was ‘If you see a queue- join it’. Our grandmothers formed an orderly line outside shops in the desperate hope that some hard to come by item (nylon’s, shoes, fish, lemons) might still be being sold by the time they reached the head of the queue. They queued because it was worth it.

In the early noughties we queued because we’d swallowed- hook, line and sinker- the notion that we’re worth it. Many of us fell for the idea that it wasn’t just a product we were purchasing when we bought a Kate Moss waistcoat in Topshop, but actually a scintilla of her glamour and a taste of her celebrity lifestyle.”

The chapter goes on to say that this idea of ‘being worth it’ is a pernicious one. Certainly, it’s L’Oreal’s tagline! With the liberation of women from domestic drudgery- what have we done? Gone out and spent more than we are actually worth on a plethora of high street products, all promising us different things. Where our grandparents saved for the national good, we spent ourselves into debt, persuaded by marketeers that it was good for the nation. How many people are still falling for all these lies? Every successive Government still tries to convince us to spend for economic growth and security!

This book also highlights certain other curious facts:

  • The average women spends more than 8 years of her life shopping
  • She also spends 95 hours a year on food shopping, but 169 hours clothes shopping!
  • Most women have no funds left over at the end of the month for savings and habitually buy items of clothing they do not need
  • In 2007, the average women bought twice as much clothing as she did in 1995
  • From 2003-2008, local councils saw a 23% increase in the amount of textiles thrown away

I dread to think what more up-to-date versions of these figures would tell us. I am certain that things will have gotten worse, not better. This phenomenon has also been dubbed ‘The Primark Effect’- this is what cheap, throwaway fashion does to our society. Let alone what it does globally which you can read about in some of my previous posts.

What seems to have disappeared from our society (and not just in terms of clothes buying, but much more widely IMHO) is common sense! Whereas our grandparents generation would have bought clothing based on need, we now buy based on fashion. I am totally guilty of this kind of shopping based on desire, not need and I am seeking to mend my ways.

My husband often comments on how many clothes and shoes I have, in comparison to his. It’s a bit of a joke, but it highlights the very different way in which men and women shop. Men seem to be much more logical and orderly. Women, myself included, are often in search of a bargain- it must be that scarcity mentality kicking in (again, you can read about this in previous posts).

There have been a lot posts by bloggers that encourage Minimalism in relation to clothing, but many of these have been year long projects. Temporary experiments and many times, people probably creep back into their old habits. What about contemplating making the change for a lifetime? I need to make this change myself! Could you manage on the amount of clothing shown in this British wartime poster from the 1940s? Food for thought, isn’t it?


I will be posting more about clothing in my next blog post- in particular second-hand clothing (a passion of mine), so look out for it!

Ideas2Action- a local voluntary organisation that is a Zero Waste dream!

I was reading the local freebie paper that comes through the door every week. This is one piece of ‘junk mail’ I am happy to receive because it keeps me up to date with local events and information. The article claimed that a local group needed biscuit wrappers to help with their fundraising. This immediately caught my attention because biscuit wrappers are one of those things that have to go straight in the bin.

They have set up a fantastic directory called ‘We Need That!’ where local groups such as; churches, play groups, charities, schools etc can list items they need. See link to the latest edition below:

A quick read of this shows that there are local groups requiring almost any item you could possibly think of! I’m excited because it looks like I should be putting barely anything in either the bin or the recycling bank in the future! They want jumpers to unpick for wool, foil, milk bottle tops, lolly sticks, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, pallets, flower pots, match boxes, printer cartridges, even dry tea bags!!! And SO MUCH MORE!

I am so excited that a group of local people have had the foresight to set this organisation up. I am posting here because it might give other Zero Waste peeps the inspiration to do the same locally. All we need to do now is spread the word far and wide because we have the power to re-use an awful lot of waste here! Annoyingly Facebook wouldn’t even let me post the link because it claimed ‘other people had reported it as abusive content’! So, I am blogging about it and posting my blog link instead.

If you need any further information, the article states that you can contact Monique at Ideas2Action. or call 07771 705662.

Overwhelmed by change

I’ve taken a little break from writing here because I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed by change. Now it’s time to write and reflect on this. There has been a very stark difference between Minimalism and Zero Waste for me. Minimalism was a much smoother, easier journey. I had familiar channels that already existed through which I could get rid of stuff- eBay, charity shops, Freecycle and so on. Getting rid of stuff was beneficial to my mental health – I felt freer and less burdened.

Zero Waste on the other hand, has been a much bigger step- not being able to shop in familiar stores, having to seek out stores that sell things in suitable formats, thereby driving much longer distances or having to visit different towns. I also live with 2 chronic health conditions and I’ll admit that this has not been entirely helpful. I feel that Zero Waste has raised my anxiety levels because I feel guilty about buying the wrong stuff, now I know that I could be making better choices. Now this also says something about my perfectionist streak! But honestly, it currently feels like a really big weight to be carrying. Knowledge is power so they say, but to me- it has been more of a frustration in this case.

I am trying to learn and accept that I can’t change everything. It’s great to read about all these bloggers in other countries achieving Zero Waste but the reality here in Britain is that we don’t have the facilities to be like this. Try as I might, I can’t buy food sans packaging because we don’t have bulk stores anymore. I remember them from my childhood, but they simply don’t exist now. Maybe they do in the big cities and in some years, it might filter down to us. I have to eat a gluten-free diet and that means a lot of the food I eat has to be packaged and sealed in plastic to prevent cross contamination. I don’t see a way around that currently. My health conditions mean I sometimes need to have pre-packaged foods in the cupboard because I am not well enough to prepare something from scratch.

I do want to be a pioneer, but I have to accept that I have limited time and energy to achieve that because my health tends to dictate. It’s also important to have a balance in your life and that means, some of my energy needs to be directed to other places or to more relaxing ventures!

However, we have made some small changes- here are some things that worked for us;

  1. We are sticking with solid shampoo and conditioner, they are brilliant! We are just trialling ‘Copperhead’ solid shampoo and ‘Big’ solid conditioner by Lush.
  2. ‘Tiny Hands’ solid hand cream by Lush didn’t work at all for me and now Lush are discontinuing it, so it can’t have been good for anyone! But, I found a Cath Kidston Rose Hand Balm in a tin in TK Maxx and that is much better and still plastic free!
  3. We have switched to solid bar soap and won’t be going back- I found some massive vegan bar soaps, again in TK Maxx that have been fab and real value for money! We’re also currently trying out the various fragrances in the Dr Bronner’s range.
  4. We’re sticking with the gingham cloths to line the microwave and cake tins. We’ve tried using cloth napkins to wrap sandwiches, but they are so hard to clean afterwards that we’ve stopped. 3 turns in the washing machine and still the crumbs stuck!
  5. I made washable cloth pads and I’m sticking with them for 75% of my cycle. I’ve yet to try making thicker ones, but I have  plans when I have time.
  6. We have a compost bin in the kitchen and one in the garden too!
  7. We now have washable scouring cloths in the kitchen rather than disposable plastic scourers. We do still use disposable metal ones for the tough stuff, but they disintegrate largely and I don’t think they would be problematic.
  8. We have many more re-usable containers which do cut down on the need to use plastic freezer bags or clingfilm in lunch boxes.
  9. Always carrying re-usable cloth bags to the supermarket. We manage this 99% of the time!

And some things that didn’t;

  1. We purchased a second-hand wooden 3 piece suite with the intention of recovering for years to come, but it was too uncomfortable and incompatible with my health conditions because of the poor posture it created. So, we’re buying new.
  2. Homemade mouthwash really didn’t cut it, nor did homemade cleaning solution for my mouthguard- so I’ve gone back to using denture tablets which are unfortunately packaged in plastic.
  3. Toothy tabs were OK, but my husband had big concerns about the lack of fluoride and they did nothing to ease my sensitive teeth. So, we’ve gone back to toothpaste.
  4. We didn’t find a successful alternative to using antibacterial spray on the kitchen counters. When you have pets and not much time in the mornings, you really do need a quick and safe solution.

Some thing that we plan to change as we use things up etc;

  1. We’ve nearly come to the end of our plastic bag store and as we’re not intentionally taking them anymore, we plan to buy paper bin liners. (As we’re not newspaper readers and we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to donate there old ones to us, we have no choice but to buy recycled ones currently).
  2. We may still change from tissues to handkerchiefs. However it’s hard enough managing to regularly wash the re-usable items mentioned above and all these kinds of things need hot washes. Probably easier if you’re a family and do more loads. I refuse to do half-loads.
  3. We may still try to switch to milk in glass bottles from the milkman. However- it’s very expensive and we know they’ve already agreed to close the bottling plant down for the whole of the UK, so it feels futile.
  4. I am about to switch from facial cleanser in a plastic tube to a solid bar of face wash from Lush. I hope it’s as good as their solid shampoos and conditioners, so that it becomes a permanent change!

So, it seems that they positive changes are double the negatives, so that’s nice to see! Sometimes it has felt like a real uphill battle- it really does help to write things down. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.