The reusable topic of my reusable cup

 

Today’s blog post is about my reusable cup

 IMG_3151ta-da!

If it looks familiar, that may be because I’ve written about it before. What??? I hear you ask. Are you actually going to try and squeeze out another post about a boring old cup?

Well, yes I am!

When I wrote my first post back in January 2014, I was a newbie to the reusable cup gang (membership= 1 in the circles I move in!!), I had limited experience of using one and, given that my children were very small, I tended to avoid buying hot drinks because, well, they were never bloom’ hot by the time I got to drink them…

These days have passed – I now have a minor caffeine addiction and I am more likely to be found with my reusable cup in my bag than spare pants*. Oh how times have changed 🙂

So, first things first, I’ll start with the introductions…

The white model above is the reusable cup which came into my possession around the end of 2013. I purchased it from the Onya website and while I was very happy with the look of it (similar to its disposable cousins), the feel of it (can be held without risk of burning), I really hated the smell of strong silicone which also affected the taste of the drink. The kids dubbed it Mummy’s Stinky Cup. Enough said.

As a result, I wasn’t sure I’d last the pace with this particular cup. However, while I wouldn’t recommend the model to anyone, I found that over time the smell and taste of the cup improved dramatically with time and plentiful washing, and as a result, the kids have moved on to bullying other inanimate objects.

In my first post, I estimated that I’d use my cup around 20 times in a year. While this was accurate based on my lifestyle at the time, I now probably use it now, on average, once a week. I seem to spend a lot of my time either in soft play cafes or waiting for my children to come out of their various sporting activities.

I think it is therefore realistic to estimate that I’ve saved over 100 disposable cups from landfill. Given that the onya website estimates the environmental impact of producing the reusable cup is equivalent to 10 uses of my cup, I can truly claim to have reduced my damage to the planet.**

What about everyone else? (Oh yes! I am adding a truly evangelical angle to this post!)

I certainly am alone every single time I use my cup. None of my friends carry one to cafes, and I’ve never seen anyone else with one unless they are bringing a coffee out with them from home. Every few months I ask staff in the two soft play cafés I regularly visit (that only serve disposable cups) if anyone else is using reusable cups yet and the answer, tragically, is no. Only me.

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This isn’t to say that people are against using their own cup. Friends often show an interest when I put my cup on the table and they commend me for using it, it’s just that no one has joined me in bringing out their own cup. Yet…?

It’s also worth saying that the staff in cafes always serve me quite happily – I had initially wondered if anyone would refuse to use it, on the basis of some Health & Safety rule that I was unaware of. One member of staff told me that where he comes from in Spain, everyone brings their own cup and the cafes are left with shelves of unwanted disposable cups.

I had a little rummage around the internet to see if I could present you with some stats about disposable coffee cups. I thought I’d give you a few bullets of facts.

I searched for ages in the end, and while I came across lots of shocking facts about cups and the damage they cause to the environment as I expected, I found it confusing to get a clear picture of the issue today. There was little that was bang up to date (my guess is that the numbers of disposable cups being used varies widely each year as some people find reasons not to use them, and others possibly increase their usage). Also there was copious information about disposable cups that are used not just for hot drinks, but for water in workplaces, hospitals, schools etc., which I’ve chosen not to focus on in today’s post. I will however refer you to this article, written in the Guardian by Rebecca Smithers in July 2014 which gives us the following facts:

  • Over 2.5 billion disposable cups are being chucked each year in the UK
  • That is enough to go round the world five and a half times
  • Nearly all of these end up in landfill, creating 25,000 tonnes of waste.

The more I think in my mind of these cups going round the world (or those that end up in landfill filling London’s Albert Hall, which is the other visual image she offers), the more I wonder why on earth more action is not being taken by governments, by businesses, by the person on the street…by me failing to turn back to get my own cup if I shut the door without popping it in my bag.

I’m certainly going to resolve to refuse disposable cups every (single teeny tiny) time I’m out, and if you feel the same way, then here are some issues to think about to find a cup that suits you before you make that all important purchase:

  • Does it need to be safe or light enough to carry in your bag?
  • Will it fit under a coffee machine?
  • Is it the right size to fit in your drink of choice?
  • Does it matter if the lid leaks?
  • Do you care about the smell and taste of the material it’s made of?

Typing “buy reusable cups” or something similar into your search engine will lead you to a fine selection, but here’s an article by Erica Buist in the Guardian where she’s reviewed some cups for you.

Now you can see the benefits of refusing your disposable cup – and I’ve shown you how to go about getting your own – so…come on! Join my club!

How have you got on with your reusable cup? Would you recommend it?

 

*for the kids. FOR THE KIDS.

**note, as I’m still drinking tea shipped from abroad, using hot water and washing the cup, I am still causing an environmental impact…

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Plastic-free July: It’s almost July!

I love June as a rule, but this year I feel like I am clinging on to it, savouring every moment, because soon it will be July. Plastic Free July to be precise!

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Arrrgghh! I have to confess I’m feeling a bit scared, and a lot less organised than I was aiming for, when I decided to take part in this challenge! My list of to do’s is only partially complete, and it turns out that I won’t be able to just sit in the house avoiding disposable plastics during the summer holidays (!) so the calendar is filling up with events that are going to be interesting for Little Ms Plastic Free July – that’s me!

I am going to stubbornly ignore my obstacles however, and square up to the pledge I made, like the grown woman I am! There will be failures along the way (hardly breaking news if you’re a regular reader) but every bit of disposable plastic spared from landfill is a win – right people? – and I do intend to spare a lot!

In attempt to update my blog as much as I can, I am planning to be writing in diary style mainly. I can’t guarantee polished posts every time (like I do normally?!) but my aim for this project is to record and share. I have made the mistake before of declaring that I will write regularly and then not managing it, so, the best I can offer is to update the blog when I am able. I’m hoping that will translate into at least a few posts a week.

We have under two days to go until July, so if you have been reading this with even a smidgeon of interest, why not make the experience interactive and choose a few items of disposable plastic to give up? I recently wrote this guest post  for Plastic Free UK which outlines a few ideas. Have a read and pick some…go on! Please let me know of any pledges that you make in the comments section below – you have no idea how much people joining in helps with my motivation!

If you are in the UK and want to follow any of the Plastic Free July community over here, then do check out the twitter feeds/webpages of @ecothrifty Eco Thrify Living, @polytheenpam Plastic Is Rubbish and Plastic Free UK, @croydn Plastic Free July in Croydon @griffinkate Sustainable Witney and @BeckyAnnison Westwick Dreaming (Let me know if there are more of you out there!!)

For further afield get on to the Plastic Free July website, twitter feed and hash tag – there are (believe it or not) loads of people taking part in this challenge!

Thanks to everyone who’s reading and cheering me on with your comments, you have turned a daunting challenge into a real positive! 

Plastic-free Me: February Diary Day

This is the last post I’ll write until after Easter in my Plastic-free Me series on the blog.  As you will know, if you’ve been reading recently, I’m going supermarket-free over lent and will be blogging regularly about it – I’m aiming for a post every few days so I’ll be seriously upping my writing game for around 6 weeks!

I thought about doing a plastic-free post every now and again but I’ve decided just to focus on one writing topic at a time. However, I’m hoping that by forgoing the supermarket, I will reduce my plastic further by default.  Already I have activated my milk home-delivery order (more on that below) and I will be exploring a packaging-free shop nearby. Plus I’m hoping to get to some Farmers’ Markets and, from past experience, there is much more loose produce available there than in the plastic-fantastic supermarkets.

Although I haven’t quit the supermarket yet, I am hoping it’s going to be a lot easier than eliminating plastic! The purpose of these ‘diary days’ are to record my progress towards going plastic-free in July and so for the sake of this diary, I must put it in writing that as I type, I am not relaxed at all about Plastic Free July!  The way I feel just now is that I am resigned to having to ‘declare’ some plastics right at the start of the challenge that I won’t be able to avoid if I’m to function and eat a balanced diet. Saying that, I do feel determined and hopeful. I’m optimistic about going plastic-free and I still have several months in which to make further progress! I’d love it if you’d stay with me over lent and follow me as I ditch the supermarket and for those of you who have held my hand in cyber space as I’ve shown so many items of plastic the door, there’ll be little plastic-y references within my posts just for you!

First though, let me tell you about Thursday 27th February which was the date I selected to track my use of plastic…

My day started as most of my other diary days have done.  You can read those posts here: November, December and January.

In short, I reckon that in July I have already found enough plastic-free products to get me through breakfast and brush my teeth.  The medication I take for my allergies is still a sticking point that I need to progress, plus although I can have a shower, I can’t yet have a plastic-free hair wash!  I need to test out plastic-free shampoos and conditioners. I really could do with a good skin moisturiser as well that is plastic-free (and nut-free – that’s one of the allergies – grrr!)

On Thursday, the first task I undertook was making a packed lunch for my other half.  Sheepishly, I feel the need to point out just now that this lunch is not just provided by me as a kindly gesture of love but because I realised that when he bought his lunch each day from a shop at work, he was using up all sorts of packaging – see this post. He gave into my control-freakery because he’s good like that (plus it saved him £4 a day on lunch costs and he got a homemade lunch out of it.) Everyone’s a winner! …Except somehow – although my lunch is definitely the environmental victor compared to the shop-bought alternative – bits of plastic have been creeping in every now and again. Fail! For example, Thursday’s lunch, which was made in a rush,  included babybel (these come triple wrapped!), oatcakes in a plastic bag and a portion of nuts – also from a plastic bag.  I must do better…

The rest of the day was a quiet one at home for me as my youngest child had been poorly with a minor bug. All that was on the agenda was to drop my eldest at nursery and do the pick up again a few hours later.  We are normally so busy that a day at home was bliss.  It was also an opportunity to monitor my plastic consumption in an environment where I am totally in control.

The first ‘event’ was sitting on the couch reading stories. Lovely, and it means that I have an activity under my belt that will be plastic-free for July.  I was going for gold so I took a piece of my own advice from my recent what not to buy post and squeezed some fresh juice from the organic oranges in my veg box for my little patient. Providing a plastic-free snack was not, however, as easy.  I’m lucky in that my children are good eaters and devour fruit but there’s only so much of that it’s wise to give them.  They regularly have these shop-bought oat bars.

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For ages I’ve been meaning to find recipes to make snacks to replace them and indeed, I tried one previously but it was too sugary to be healthy. My wee ones also have kids’ crisps but these come in a plastic packet and I’m doubtful that they’re as healthy as the marketing suggests.

By the afternoon, my youngest had picked up significantly and happily played with my eldest all afternoon while I attacked my to-do list. (Does anyone work faster than a parent whose time to get things done will run out at any minute?!)

I got on the phone to the dairy I had chosen for home-delivery.  In under five minutes I had placed my order thus diverting more money away from the supermarket and securing myself the option of glass-bottled milk for July. Hooray!

I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, wondering how I am going to find plastic-free dishwasher tablets and packaging in July… Although I have not solved the problem of washing-up liquid for doing the dishes in the sink, I recently ordered a huge container of Ecover that comes in a thin plastic bag – the idea being that you dispense it into your own bottle and save on packaging.

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On Thursday I tried dispensing the liquid into my empty Fairy container, but managed instead to pour about 50ml of the stuff all over my kitchen floor.  I mopped it up with some old clothes which I chucked in the washing machine to rinse.  As you can see from the photo below that the result was a hugely foamy drum (at a point where no suds should be showing).

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It took three rinse cycles in the machine and a bath of cold water to restore the situation to normal.  Not environmentally friendly at all… You live and learn.

I made raisin bread in the breadmaker – finding completely plastic-free bread ingredients is still outstanding!  Then we had homemade vegetable crumble for dinner.  This dish is so nearly plastic-free, but it still contains seeds and cheese as offenders (note the soon-to-be-banished Tesco packaging!)

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So, there you go – lots of progress made and still a long way to go before July!

I hope to meet you back on the Plastic-Free Me series after Easter – let’s see if taking a break from writing about plastic elimination is the blogging equivalent of ‘sleeping on it’ and perhaps progress will evolve effortlessly? I can but dream…

Plastic-free Me: December diary day

Last month I thought it would be interesting to record a random day each month on the blog to track the single-use plastics that I’m consuming. If I can identify these then, hopefully I can find replacements for Plastic Free July. You can read November’s diary day here.

On Tuesday I therefore grabbed a pen and some paper to take a note of what I was using. The pen was plastic but, unlike last month when I picked up a notebook covered in plastic, this month I thought first and found a piece of scrap paper.

The first task of our morning is a nappy-change. This month instead of using wipes we have changed to a wet flannel. It’s really no problem to do this at home and cuts out the single-use plastic from the packet of wipes (and because it creates no waste, it is obviously more eco-friendly).

Breakfast is the usual porridge, made with milk (plastic bottle), tinned fruit, raisins (plastic bag) and juice (plastic pourer). This reminds me that I really must sort out my milk order as documented in this post. I’d also like to find raisins in cardboard packaging and plastic-free juice. Surely adding a plastic pourer to juice cartons is a new invention? Where has the retro-style cardboard container gone?!

After breakfast, there’s more plastic in the form of toothbrushes and toothpaste (see this post), medication (I’ve still to write to the drugs companies to explore alternatives), hand cream, vitamins for the children and make up. This is another reminder that I must trial some plastic free make-up. Read this post to find out more and enjoy the excellent comments from kind readers helping me out!

No doubt you have already found my day highly exciting (!) but for us Tuesday was about to get a whole lot better as we all had a day off to experience Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland. Scotland’s capital city prides itself on its Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations. In central Edinburgh, Princes Street Gardens has a Christmas market, fairground rides and an ice rink. I was interested to find out if visiting this attraction was going to increase our usage of disposable plastics…although obviously this was not the motivation for the visit!!!

We travelled to Edinburgh by train and although we avoided single-use plastics, it was really disappointing to note that there was a lot of discarded plastic in the undergrowth around the station – mainly food and drink packaging, which you can just about make out in this photo.

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We had a brilliant morning at the Winter Wonderland. Here’s a photo of the big wheel….

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And the view from the top….

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We also had an unfortunate view of a canoodling couple in the next carriage but I don’t have any pictures of them!

I don’t think we consumed any plastic at all at the Wonderland but our downfall came when we went for a snack in the John Lewis café afterwards.

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Juice for the children came in cartons with plastic straws, and milk portions for our tea and coffee were also packaged in the evil stuff. I am seriously wondering if we are going to be able to eat out at all in July.

On the off chance you’re enjoying some rare photos that aren’t plastic waste, then here’s a picture we took of an Edinburgh Tram on our way through town – not in use yet despite all the hype. I digress.

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Lunch at home was toasted bagels (plastic bag) with beans. The beans tin stated that it should be recycled as steel, but it appeared to be lined with what I think was BPA. We gave the kids organic carrots (from a plastic bag) and then while they went off to play we selflessly raided the chocolate from the selection boxes they had received – too much chocolate is no good for young children after all….

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The packets in the photo above came in a plastic tray which itself had a plastic wrapper on it so the chocolate was therefore triple wrapped in plastic! We didn’t buy this but it does raise a question about what to do regarding excessively packaged gifts in July.

In the afternoon I visited a shopping centre to finish off my Christmas shopping. While I was mindful of my plastic consumption, I wasn’t organised enough to avoid it but it did get me thinking outside the box for a few gifts and I was quite pleased to pick up some balls of wool for the kids’ stockings that we can use to make pom-poms and some unpackaged wooden pencils with pencil toppers on the end.

I refused plastic bags in every shop I went to and told the shop assistants that I was doing it to ‘save the planet’ – I figure it doesn’t hurt to let people know as long as I’m not subjecting them to a lecture or a personal reading of my blog…

I asked the shop assistant in Waterstones if many people are bringing their own bags when buying books. He reckoned that while increasing numbers are, it’s probably not as much as 50% of shoppers. I was actually heartened to hear this as my assumption was that people associate reusable bags with grocery shopping only and collect plastic bags without thinking for other shopping.

Dinner that night included an organic pepper, cheese and yogurt which all cam e in plastic, alerting me to the fact that I need to find out what recipes can be sourced or adapted to get me through July.

In the evening I made a Christmas card with my eldest child. This was a fun activity rather than a mission to cut down on single use plastics which is just as well as we made the Christmas pudding out of Hama beads.

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Oh how we love Hama beads in our house! We first got them in the summer and they have been played with regularly ever since, with more packets having been acquired.

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They make me feel really guilty though, as of course they are hard plastic and eventually most of these creations will end up in the bin (although proud relatives are currently saving them from landfill in the shape of coasters, cards, or pin board adornments)!  It’s a dilemma for me though as the children are very creative with them and I love watching them enjoying themselves and discovering their talents.

Peppered throughout the day were the usual plastic-offenders such as dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid and make-up remover wipes which I’ve still to find suitable replacements for.

Since last month, I have changed my brand of tea to Twinnings which comes in plastic-free packaging (as long as I buy the packs of 40 bags)…

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 …and I have been bulk buying toilet roll in compostable packaging.

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The only problem is that all of the compostable packets come wrapped in a massive packet of polythene, defeating my purpose somewhat.

There you go then. Still a large amount of single-use plastics consumed in my day but I have found some solutions and am working on others.