Swagbucks July Swago!

Swagbucks is holding their monthly Swago promotion starting at 5pm, Monday 24th July.  It’s just like bingo, but in this case you’re filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online.

If you’re thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it.    The best part is that the points you get can be used to get free gift cards to places like M&S, Amazon, or PayPal cash!

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points – if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 300 SB bonus! Click here to sign up and get started! If you sign up through my link and earn 300 SB before the first of next month, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB!

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Swagbucks Sweet Treat Team Challenge

On your marks, get set, EARN! Swagbucks is holding a fun team challenge called the “Swagathlon” to help you earn free gift cards!

For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web!

If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes! The challenge, begins Monday 17th July at 4pm BST, but you can pre-register starting on Friday 14th July!

Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. Starting 17th June at 4pm BST, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.    All members who participate and contribute at least 600 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card!

Not only that, but if you sign up under me this month and earn 300 SB before 1st August, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus! Members of the 1st place team will receive a 100 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate, and members of the 3rd place team will receive a 30 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday 21st July at 10pm BST and will expire on 07:59am, Saturday August 4th BST.

Lush Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

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I realised that in all my Lush posts, I didn’t actually have a picture of their solid shampoo and conditioner bars. So here they are – now you know what they actually look like. I find one of these lasts about a month for me, but I have very long, thick hair. My husband has short hair and I think he can make them last more like 6 months which is pretty awesome value! Pictured are the ones I use – Montelbano (the yellow shampoo bar) and Jungle (the green conditioner bar). Montelbano is full of lemons to add shine and Jungle has an exotic scent; also it is a very light conditioner so ideal for greasy hair. My husband uses Soak & Float which contains Cade Oil – designed to help with psoriasis,  dandruff and eczema. I also LOVE their BIG solid conditioner, which makes my hair seriously soft and shiny.

Lush now make the conditioner bars in an oval shape, so you can tell which is which, without looking. You can also buy little tins to transport them in, if you are travelling. I only have the round tins, as I bought them before they changed the shape. I cut down the conditioner to take it with me, as I don’t want to buy more. You should always allow them to air dry however, or they will go soggy. They do have a tendency to stick to the tin, so at home I store them on a wire soap rack.

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If you want to read more about ingredients and how to use them, you can go to the Lush website and they even have a video. We will never go back to buying shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles! These work so well, take up less space in our bathroom and  are fantastically compact for travelling. Plus, you can avoid any rules about taking liquids onboard.

Care to share your experiences with solid toiletries?

UK Shoppers Spend One Billion Pounds Less on Clothing

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Minimalism is hitting the UK, with Millennials spending in excess of One Billion Pounds less on clothing last year. With firms such as M&S, French Connection failing to turn a profit and High Street stalwart Jaegar going into administration – it really seems that the tide is beginning to turn. Fashion is just not in fashion any longer!

So what exactly are UK shoppers spending their money on instead? The answer is experiences. The High Street chains are now getting in on the act aiming to flood you with a choice of ‘shopping experiences’; with nail bars popping up in Superdrug. Mintel reports that people are spending much more money on going out and eating out. Retailers are looking for ways to encourage people to come into their physical stores, since the explosion of online shopping. Each is looking to create a unique shopping environment, to encourage you to part with your cash.

Next are planning to incorporate florists within their stores, along with upmarket restaurants and a Prosecco Bar. River Island has a style studio, complete with a personal shopper. They will whisk you into a VIP area, ply you with Prosecco and then you’ll get to try on lots of personally recommended products. Trainer retailer Superga has introduced artists into store, so that you can select a trainer and have the artist paint it for you. Topshop have employed virtual reality in their stores, to take things to a whole new dimension. Their Oxford Street store has recently had a virtual water slide installed which includes a virtual whale – the experience is called ‘Splash’! Along with pumping the smell of suncream into the air. It’s all to promote their swimwear range.

Oasis have ‘Saucer and Spritz’ cafes in some stores now; offering cake, champagne, cocktails, afternoon tea and Unicorn Toast (no I don’t know what that is either!?!) Activewear brand Sweaty Betty offers free in-store exercise classes. Beware though – obviously these brands still want to actually sell you stuff. These exercise classes will not only take place in-store, so everywhere you look, you will be exposed to temptation. But the instructors will not only be looking svelte and toned; they will of course be clad from head to toe in Sweaty Betty! These are the new lifestyle ambassadors, also put forward through online associations with lifestyle bloggers. All in a bid to help push their stuff.

What do you think of this change? I have mixed feelings about it because I know there is an underlying motive. However, it does at least encourage people to acquire less (in part anyway, depending on the store). I guess I’d just rather see people using their spare cash to more profitable ends, like building community and helping those in need.

Things that have gone – 14

Well, I managed to get rid of some more items! Despite thinking that I wouldn’t. I filled another bag for charity – I finished reading a couple of books that had no trade in value. Likewise we watched a DVD that was worth 1p to trade-in, so better to let a charity take it. I had a picture frame that I’d been holding onto for 20 years +, planning to frame a tapestry I completed as a child. I gave away the mounts last week, so it was time for the frame to go. I didn’t even like it! It was dark wood and ugly.

I also traded in a corduroy shirt that was a bad buy from a charity shop because it was a colour I’d never wear, with ridiculous cuffs. I’ll put that one down to experience. Finally, I found some polystyrene Christmas trees I’d been intending to turn into Christmas decorations, by covering them in sequins. Well, I completed 1 and it took so long, I never got down to the rest. Almost 2 years later, I was ready to accept that I wasn’t going to complete the rest.

I also took 3 DVDs to CEX and traded them in, one was a box set. So that’s cleared some space under the TV. Then, I traded in 2 books I’d finished reading and netted myself just over £6 for them. Not bad when I only paid £1.75 for them in a charity shop! The minimising continues…

Lush Haul – Zero Waste Toiletries

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I visited Lush yesterday to stock up on toiletries, in advance of my holiday in a few weeks. Lush is great, as you can buy most toiletries packaging free. Above you can see (anti-clockwise from the giant henna block in the bottom left); Caca Marron Henna Hair Dye Block, Handy Gurugu Handcream, The Sunblock, Each Peach (and Two’s a Pair) Massage Bar and Coalface Solid Bar Soap (just about visible on the black bag).

I love their henna, I never wanted to dye my hair but I am slowly going grey (the curse of having dark hair) and in my mid-thirties, it’s got to the point where I really don’t like it being so visible. These henna bars are a little bit of effort, but I love that they are all natural. They are well worth the effort and really do make your greys sparkle brighter, as they take the colour slightly differently and look like highlights.

The hand cream comes in a little black pot, but these are made from 100% recycled plastic. Lush has a closed loop system and you take your pots back to store for recycling. They take them back to the manufacturer and round and round they go! The plastic manufacturer is also down here in Poole, right next to the factories that make the lovely Lush products. I tried their solid hand cream, but it wasn’t rich enough for me and far, far too greasy.

I don’t fully understand why they wrap the sunblock in plastic, but currently they do. I suspect it’s because it’s prone to melting – I had this experience once. But I’d still rather buy it sans-packaging and put it into a little tin for travel, like I do with their solid shampoos and conditioners. (EDIT: I wrote to Lush and they tell me that their sunblock is more prone to melting than other solid products. However, the good news is that the “plastic wrap is a cellulose plastic, which is a bio-plastic made from things like vegetable fats. It can be popped in with your compost and should begin to biodegrade within a week or so“). My husband swears this is the best sun-care product he has ever used. He has pale skin that burns very easily, but this offers fabulous protection. You simply shower it on in the morning and it’s SPF 30. You can also cut off a little bit and carry it with you in a tin, to top up. We also carry their ‘Powdered Sunshine’ which is fabulous and non-greasy, a little powder that you apply like talc. I even mix it with my face powder, to up my daily protection.

The massage bars are great for travel and completely sans-packaging. You just rub them over your skin to moisturise and it’s as simple as that. Coal-face is a godsend for my oily skin and it doubles as an exfoliator, as it contains little pieces of coal to gently scrub. I love it more than any face wash I’ve ever tried. Combine these items with our solid shampoo and conditioners bars and we’re set to go! We can’t imagine ever going back to plastic-wrapped, unethical toiletries.

All in all, I love supporting a local retailer, employing (mostly) local people (more on that perhaps another time) all these products are made 5 miles from my house – though ironically I have to travel a couple of miles further on just to buy them! I took all old paper bags and re-used them all. I had to prompt the staff member a couple of times, but they obliged. They sell some items by weight, and they always weigh them without the packaging. They can even cut products to your requirements, like with my piece of coalface soap.

What did the World use as Packaging before Plastic?

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What did the World use before plastic existed? The answer is ‘jute’. Jute is a reed which grew in the rivers around Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. It is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus Capsularis) and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius). Jute was woven into sack cloth and used to transport everything from potatoes to coal. In Britain, Dundee was the capital of jute manufacturing for the UK.

Jute is a natural product and should be at the forefront of any moves towards sustainable production and transport of goods. It is known as ‘the golden fibre’ partly due to its lovely shine and colour and also due to its ability to be woven into various textiles. It is incredibly strong when woven. But it is 100% biodegradable and therefore – more environmentally friendly. It is versatile and can be used as a yarn on its own, woven with other fibres and also made into more rigid products like baskets.

Perhaps jute is not confined to the history books and is about to have a resurgence? What do you think? It’s an annual crop which takes only 120 days to grow, during the summer months (May, June, July, August). It’s a rain-fed crop, with no need for fertilisers or pesticides. It also produces good yields, making it a very affordable crop.

Note: If this subject interests you, then you should catch up with Joanna Lumley’s India on the ITV Hub.