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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Things that have gone – 20

My decluttering continues in the background. I have sold and given away a few more things.

  1. Vintage skirt
  2. Vintage dress
  3. Free gift from Boots
  4. Clothes rail (Yes, I’ve managed to downsize my clothing that much that I can let go of my additional clothing rail!)
  5. Handheld vacuum cleaner (thought it was worth a try on Freecycle, but was not powerful enough to bother with)
  6. Cardboard boxes
  7. Sewing thread case
  8. Old pram mattress

I’ve also cleared out a storage box and an old lampshade, that if no-none wants on Freecycle – will go to the charity shop.

Stay tuned for my next update!

Things that have gone this week – 5

Well, I was hoping a few more items would sell on eBay this week. But only 3 things have gone – a pair of shoes, a white blouse and a red dress. This pair marks the 12th pair of shoes I have gotten rid of! 12 pairs of shoes and I don’t even notice the difference. I still have more than 12 pairs, so a few more need to go!!!

Despite this, I have also recycled a whole lot of old papers and cards. Goodness knows why I was holding onto them! I had a Birthday card from 20 years ago amongst my selection. I am hoping to give away or donate some items too this week, either to charity shops or on Freecycle. I also traded in 14 books on www.webuybooks.co.uk which was a medium sized box worth. So there is definitely a little more space here!

Zero Waste Wreath

I fancied a wreath for Christmas this year, I’ve bought cheap (£6-7) before and they’ve fallen apart in about a week being outdoors as they are just glued onto polystyrene. I also wanted to avoid plastic, as much as possible aiming to be zero waste. I had half fancied making my own, but I’d left it a bit late this year. Plus, a wreath holder costs around £5, plus any other materials on top – even if I foraged the natural materials and raided my fabric scraps for ribbon, I would have wanted to buy cinnamon sticks and oranges. Cinnamon sticks are not cheap – around £1 for 3 or 4. This option was starting to look expensive.

I found this wreath going in Morrisons for £5 instead of £15- it was from their ‘The Best’ range. I think I bought it about 2 weeks before Christmas, so maybe that’s the time to look? It is comprised of natural foliage, with cinnamon sticks, pinecones, ribbon, raffia and yes, unfortunately just a few polystyrene and plastic adornments. However, it was the best option I could find. As you can see, it was all sitting on this wire frame which I plan to re-use year after year. It is painted green to blend in with the foliage.

In taking the wreath apart to compost the foliage, I was able to learn about its construction – vital as I will be making a homemade version each year from now onwards. It was actually comprised of very short sections of foliage, each clamped between the metal prongs that stick up. These are easily bent down with pliers. Then the decorations are wired and simply push into the foliage. I have carefully removed all of these and stored them in a cardboard box for next year. Rather than buying an expensive wreath hanger, we simply wrapped a long piece of twine through the wreath, over the door and tied it through the letterbox. It didn’t budge, even in strong winds!

So this is my top tip for next Christmas, or any other time of year you fancy putting up a wreath. Buy a good quality one, on sale and re-use the parts. Or maybe you can find the parts on sale? This frame could be re-used for any occasion – maybe I’ll try a Valentine’s wreath next?

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m excited to see what 2017 will bring.

My New Year’s resolution is to share even more money-saving, frugal, minimalist and zero waste tips with you. Over the past 4 years that have been my foray into this ‘alternative’ lifestyle, we have accumulated over £30,000 by selling our excess possessions, online earning opportunities and matched betting. We have learnt to save money in a myriad of ways, including swapping from supermarkets to local shops and the environment has benefited too, as we have ditched excess packaging at the same time. We cook from scratch almost every meal time, buy second hand items and have learnt how to use coupons and apps to our advantage. I have lots more exciting things to share with you this year, but for today – here is one small thing that has made a big difference to the dry skin during wintertime in our household.

I’d like to share a recent discovery in T.K. Maxx (but also available on Amazon here).

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Bee Bar Lotion – it is completely natural, smells divine and comes in this great re-usable tin. Inside it’s the cutest hexagonal block, wrapped only in greaseproof paper. I grabbed them when I saw them, at only £9.99 each in T.K. Maxx they were comparable with Lush’s massage bars which I normally use as they are completely packaging free. They are made by an American Brand (which I’d never heard of being here in the UK) called Honey House Naturals. It appears they will ship outside of the USA, but can only advise of the shipping and customs taxes at the time of dispatch.

They are utterly portable, great for travel, no chemical nasties and last around 2-3 months.

Do share any great products you have found, as sometimes it’s very hard to come by good zero waste items.

Zero Waste, Recycled and Free Storage

We have recently reorganised our lounge and I needed somewhere to store my sheet music. I was going to go and buy some of those magazine storage files, since we rarely eat cereal we don’t have boxes that I could cut down. Besides, when I’ve tried that in the past – they were not heavyweight enough to cope. I was in a large supermarket recently looking for said storage options and they didn’t have any. Then I noticed that all of their products were being displayed in the ideal cardboard storage options. Exactly what I was looking to buy, except these were mine to take for free! I located a product of a similar size to my sheet music – A4 notebooks in this case and re-arranged their shelves for them a little 😉 There is no question that these would have gone straight into recycling and so I have saved that waste from occurring because I could use these in their current state.

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I’d like to say that I’ll be covering them – I could do something really clever with some old sheet music. But I know that it’s unlikely I’ll bother – they’re doing exactly what I need right now and for free!