Why Thermos Flasks and other glass vacuum flasks are not Zero Waste!

I’m publishing this post as a warning to all that purchasing a Thermos brand or other brand flask, with a glass vacuum liner is just about the WORST choice you can make when trying to live a Zero Waste lifestyle. They are promoted as an alternative to buying drinks out and will potentially save you money.

I grew up with my parents taking them everywhere – in fact they still do! It always used to be the case that you could buy a new glass liner, if yours ever broke. I chose a glass lined one because they are known to keep drinks hotter for much, much longer than metal walled flasks and I thought I would be able to replace the parts as needed. But be warned- not any more! You have to buy a whole new flask – you cannot buy a replacement branded or otherwise, not anywhere! This means your entire plastic flask has to go in the bin. Let me tell you that I am completely horrified at this state of affairs. I hope that Thermos gets bombarded with complaints which forces them to bring back the replacement parts.

IMG_5684So, you can expect to be shelling out for the entire cost of a new flask every time yours breaks and having to live with the knowledge that you are adding non-recyclable plastic to the World’s landfill sites. I wonder just how many perfectly good flask shells are sitting in the bin, for want of a glass liner. Honestly, the thought makes me feel slightly sick!

I’d love to hear if anyone knows of a truly Zero Waste flask – one that you only have to buy once!

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Reusable cloth nappies

I’m always aiming to be zero waste, and had thoroughly researched cloth nappies on the internet from probably my whole pregnancy! About 5 months before my baby was born, I spotted a cloth nappy bundle on my local Facebook selling group. It was the works – nappies, covers, liners and boosters for £45. In the few days it took me to arrange a time to meet up with the seller, she was so desperate to sell them as she was moving house – she’d dropped the price to £25! It turned out they were brand new, she’d bought them from another lady who’d never used them. Then she’d been gifted a year’s supply of disposables and never used them. I couldn’t believe my luck! All in all I got:

4 small Motherease Airflow wraps in white (RRP £12.99 ea)

4 medium Motherease Airflow wraps in white (RRP £12.99 ea)

4 large Motherease Airflow wraps (RRP £13.99 ea)

10 Motherease snap-in booster pads in natural (RRP £2.50 ea)

14 Motherease one size cloth nappies in natural (RRP £10.99 ea)

4 rolls of paper liners (RRP £7.99 ea)

TOTAL Price new £370.70

So, I’ll be saving money against disposables in no time at all! I also picked up a Tots Bots lockable nappy bucket (RRP £12.99) and 2 mesh bags (RRP £8.99), plus about 10 white Tots Bots Bamboozle nappies (RRP around £15 ea, which we haven’t even tried yet!) off eBay for 50p and got another on Freecycle. I use one for nappies and cloth wipes and one for disposables.

I did write in this post about how the cloth nappies weren’t working for us all in the first 6 months until weaning started. Motherease are meant to be one size, but you have to fold them over initially. This makes them incredibly bulky and my baby is very slim. They were absolutely huge on him in the first few months – really looking quite ridiculous on him. Looks aside, he couldn’t seem to bend his legs properly and every time we tried them, he wouldn’t sleep. We couldn’t cope with no sleep and it wasn’t doing him any good, so we stuck with disposables regrettably. I cringed every time I had to look at the plastic piling up in our bin. We had to request a larger bin 😦 It was a very hot summer here in the UK and he seemed to overheat in these bulky nappies, which I’m sure was a contributing factor too. All that aside, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have fancied having to scrape all that liquid newborn poo off them either.

Basically, we started using them at about 7 months; prompted by the terrible smell coming from the so-called ‘Pampers Pure’ disposables. They smelt like pine disinfectant straight out of the packet and worse once my LO had wee’d in them!!! When he got a combination fungal and eczema infection all over the nappy area, I decided it was time to try the cloth again and we haven’t looked back! We do still use one disposable every night, as it’s not recommended to put them in cloth at night, whilst they’re still having a night feed. So this may change in the future – although he seems to be a heavy wetter, so I think it’s going to take a lot of boosting.

I actually love the cloth now, they’re so easy to wash and require no rinse cycle at all. I just follow Motherease’s own instructions and wash them on a 60 degree ‘hygiene’ wash in my Miele machine. They come out perfect every time and I sometimes tumble dry them in the winter, to get them dry in time. We also live in a very hard water area, so I think if I didn’t tumble dry them sometimes they’d end up like cardboard, as the towels do. Although, I’ve just bought a heated airer which is pretty miserly on the old electricity, so I’m hoping this will possibly eliminate tumble dryer use.

14 nappies could last up to 3 days, but once they’re wet – 2 days worth is about all I can fit in one cycle in my machine. So we basically wash every 2 days. The wraps dry almost instantly. They come up perfectly every time; I wash using a spray stain remover where needed, Fairy Non-Bio (because it suits us and eco detergents are NOT recommended), 50ml white vinegar as a fabric softener and 1 tbsp soap crystals as a water softener and stain remover in wash.

We’ll have to see where this cloth nappy journey takes us over the next year or so!

Things That Have Gone – 23

I said that I’d probably still manage to get rid of a few more items! Well it amounts to a cardigan and a pair of shoes sold on eBay, 2 bags of clothes returned to their original owners and 2 books sold on Amazon Marketplace.

Yet more things that weren’t actually needed! I expect the odd item will still sell on eBay in the coming months, as I have a handful left listed.

Biomimicry

I’m currently reading this book: The Story of Stuff. How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard.

I’m ashamed to say that I picked it up in a charity shop about 4 years ago, started to read it, stopped and then it went back on the shelf for years! Let’s just say it’s quite heavy going and American-centric, but there are a lot of relevant points to anyone, living anywhere in the world.

Today, I was interested to learn of the concept of ‘biomimicry‘. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that term used and described in this particular way before. But I wanted to make a note of it for future reference. Biomimicry is apparently a trend in modern design, in which designs are influenced by nature.

There is even an organisation called the Biomimicry Institute which has noticed that “nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Biomimicry experts have identified the following list of core principles in how nature functions:

  1. runs on sunlight and uses only the energy it needs
  2. uses a water-based chemistry
  3. fits form to function
  4. recycles everything
  5. rewards cooperation
  6. banks on diversity
  7. demands local expertise
  8. curbs excesses from within
  9. taps the power of limits

So, the art and science of biomimicry takes these principles and figures out how to make human technologies, infrastructure, and products that adhere to them as well.

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Some examples given in the book, are that the peacock’s brilliant feathers are not created through pigment, but through shape. They have many layers that allow light to bounce off them in different ways, which translate as colour to the naked eye. I had to Google this a bit further, it’s known as ‘structural colouration’ and was first discovered by Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton (2 English scientists). It describes microscopically structured surfaces, fine enough to interfere with invisible light (sometimes in combination with pigments). So, peacock feathers are actually pigmented brown, as you can see when you turn them over. But it’s their microscopic structure that makes them reflect blue, green and turquoise light and they are often iridescent. Butterflies also use this ‘technique’. Perhaps this could avoid the need for toxic dyes to be created, if we could harness a similar technique?

mother_of_pearl_by_fallout99-d6ms7zq

Mother of pearl is created in cold, salt water – a substance twice as strong as ceramic. Perhaps we could eliminate the use of fossil fuels, in heating kilns to make ceramics? Maybe we could learn to extract metals from cold water?

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The threads that hold a mussel shell to a rock naturally dissolve after 2 years. Perhaps we could study this and learn to create compostable packaging? (I think this one is starting to occur, approx 10 years after the book was written).

I’m not a product designer, but I did once study art. I think it’s fascinating to look at the natural world more closely, even if I was just doing it for beauty’s sake. I would have no idea how to create the intricacies of a leaf, for example, with veins running through it to carry water and nutrients, or cells that contained chlorophyll and knew how to grow, and goodness else knows whatever else goes on in there! But I bet there are scientists who could begin to work on these dilemmas. Perhaps artists could work with scientists to create truly beautiful, functional designs that remained harmless to us and our planet?

It seems to me that there is more to being a designer than just knowing about technology, or engineering, or science. Everything in the natural world seems to hold some innate beauty within it too. I can’t help but come back to the Christian ideas of intelligent design or things being created by someone far cleverer than us. Perhaps the plants and animals haven’t found out what works by trial and error over time? Perhaps they were designed that way from the outset? By someone who already knew the delicate balance of the earth’s chemistry and systems? It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?

How I made over £2,800 selling my stuff!

You may remember that about a year ago, I wrote a post telling you how I’d made over £800 selling every day items on eBay. Well, here I am a year down the line and spurred on by my initial success – I just kept selling stuff over the course of a year. I’m here to tell you that I have an extra £2,800 back in my bank account (before deductions like postage, fees etc).

Nothing I sold was extraordinary, as you have been able to track through my series of posts entitled ‘things that have gone this week’, where I’ve tried to keep some kind of record. I just logged each item in a ledger book, out of pure interest – I do this with all my moneysaving exploits and it allows me to keep a reasonably accurate log of how much money I’d saved. In-case you’re interested, since 2012 I have an extra £34,340 in my bank accounts through my combined money saving exploits – as documented right here!

I guess I’d just encourage every one to really look hard at what they’ve got lurking in their cupboards and question whether they really need it. Clothing is a weakness of mine and makes up a huge proportion of what I’ve let go – probably 80% But gone also are books, DVDs, shoes, household items, jewellery, technology and craft items. It just shows as well that these things can be sold at the right price, if they are in good condition. I’ve also donated bag fulls of items which aren’t listed in my ledger and I have no objection to charities benefitting from things I no longer want and/or need. However, that £2,800 is very welcome back in my bank also as we’re on a pretty fixed income which is going to decrease from now on as I will not be working due to having a baby.

My primary motivation with this session of decluttering was to a) clear space so that the baby could have their own room and b) get some cash so that we could afford to buy the things that baby needed. We were never looking to buy it all brand new, for so many reasons but even so we have needed to spend £1,300 on items for the new arrival. Some of that was made up by vouchers from sites like Swagbucks, Valued Opinions and Pinecone etc. But as you can see, my decluttering has left us with some spare to buy the things that will inevitably be required over the coming months and years.

So it’s over and out from me, for now on the decluttering front as I literally don’t have any more to sell or get rid of right now. But I will certainly be selling things the baby grows out of in due course!

Things that have gone – 22

Decluttering continues apace – an imminent new arrival will give you added motivation I have found!

This week I’ve sold items, given them away on Freecycle, passed them onto other people after I spotted specific requests for that item and given items to charity shops.

  1. Book – given to family member after I finished reading it
  2. Book – sold, Facebook group for that subject area
  3. Turf- specific request spotted on Freecycle, given away (would have just left it to decompose otherwise!)
  4. Cat radiator bed – sold via Facebook Marketplace
  5. Ornamental Flute-  sold on eBay
  6. Oasis blouse – sold on eBay
  7. Bag of clothing, books, DVDs and craft items – sent to charity shop
  8. Glass worktop savers- given to someone after specific request seen
  9. Wooden chopping board- given to someone after specific request seen
  10. Selection of cleaning products, scourers and cloths (I no longer use these items, since switching to greener methods)- given to someone after specific request seen
  11. Baking tray- given to someone after specific request seen

I literally have only 17 items left on eBay now, some of which I will give away if they don’t sell soon. And then I would honestly struggle to find something around the house to sell or give away, since I have pretty much got it down to items I need or use regularly (she says now). I am sure I will re-evaluate that point of view a few months down the line!!! But for now, I am happy and have totalled almost £3K back in the bank from this frenzy of selling over the last 18 months. I think that’s about what eBay reckon most people have tucked away in their houses/ lofts, storage etc.

Things that have gone – 21

It’s always amazes me what you can sell and sometimes you just need to be patient. This week I finally sold something which had been doing the rounds on eBay for more than a year! OK, OK, so I don’t recommend leaving it that long – better to take it to the charity shop and have rid of it.

I also sold some larger items on eBay, which I normally avoid because I think the higher postage costs will put people off. Actually by using a company called MyHermes, I have been able to send them for a reasonable price.

This week I have netted approx £100 and shifted several items. (Sorry don’t have pictures  of every item this week).

  1. Refurbished pram canopy
  2. Vintage jewellery box
  3. 2 piano sheet music books
  4. 2 jars homemade cranberry sauce (unwanted Christmas gifts, donated via Freecycle)
  5. Cassette tape storage box (Freecycled)
  6. Lampshade (Freecycled)
  7. DVD