I recently started a new job and along with understanding my role and the organisation; I’ve been getting to grips with a new working environment too. We have kitchen facilities but no cutlery or crockery.
I want to get better at bringing my lunches in. This is partly due to financial and health reasons: it’s expensive and I struggle to find healthier options when I’m out and about. However, I also feel conscious of all the packaging the food I’m buying comes in too given that I’m trying to reduce plastic waste.
Up until recently, my only option has been to make sure I keep a few wooden forks in my desk (thanks M&S) so I don’t have to use plastic forks from our work canteen. This is why I was really pleased when Global 1rst got in touch with me seeing if I wanted to try their eco-friendly wooden cutlery set. Its handmade from sustainable mahogany wood and is washable after use (not dishwasher safe). The size also means I can keep them in my locker comfortably along with the rest of my eco-friendly lunch kit.
I also now make sure I carry around a reusable cup with me, a stainless steel water bottle and a lunchbox. There is an initial investment and eco-friendly products aren’t always cheap because they’re made out of better, more durable materials. However, given that you reuse them and coffee shops often give you a discount if you have your own cup, then they start to pay for themselves.
My next step is to start investigating different food suppliers to see if I can reduce plastic packaging. I work long hours and so supermarket home deliveries have been a lifesaver. However, I want to explore some different options and see what else is out there. Any tips, let me know.
My eco-friendly lunch kit essentials
Reusable coffee cup – I like keep cups. I love their design and as I’m a black coffee drinker; I find the cups are better insulated so they don’t burn my hand.
Stainless steel water bottle – there are so many brands out there for lots of different prices. I have this Chilly’s one.
Stainless steel lunch box – look for ones that don’t leak. I bought one from Black & Blum
Reusable cutlery – such as from Global 1rst
Some of the products reviewed in this blog were gifted but all my opinions are my own.
I’ve been working towards a chemical-free home for a while now. I’ve become more conscious of what I buy, what I put on my skin and more importantly the products I use on my child.
I’ve always been aware of the amount of plastic I use – possibly because I grew up in the 80s when there was less packaging around. However, I’m ashamed to say I never really gave much thought to all the chemicals I released into the oceans when I was desperate to buy the latest designer shampoo promising me some hair magic.
Please note, my hair has never been magic…
I’ve been trying to buy (or make) more eco-friendly bathroom products. I always try to be honest and highlight that this is a work in progress. I still use toothpaste and I’ve struggled to get on with shampoo bars because I don’t have 2 months to be able to adjust past the greasy stage – if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.
What I am doing is trying to be thoughtful about what I do use and think about the environmental impacts. Eco-friendly bathroom products aren’t going to reverse climate change – but every little helps.
My eco-friendly bathroom products
It’s estimated that we use 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes worldwide and 80% of them end up in the sea where they take over 1000 years to dispose.
One of the easiest changes to make is to switch to a bamboo toothbrush.
I’ve used a bamboo toothbrush for years now. I only used to be able to buy them online but now I live in an area with lots of health food shops, I can find them everywhere.
They’re recyclable and biodegradable. you need to pull the bristles out to put them in the plastic recycling and the actual toothbrush can be composted.
For some of us that are old enough, we can remember a time when shower gel was just a glint in its mother’s eye. We all used soap.
I’m getting back into using soap again. It contains far less packaging and lasts a lot longer. Sometimes I make my own using an SLS free melt and pour base from my favourite apocotherapist Baldwin’s. Otherwise, I buy locally.
I make my own hand wash using castille soap, distilled water and essential oils.
I buy everything in bulk and decant it into amber bottles I buy from Baldwin’s.
However, I completely appreciate you may not have the time or interest to make your own. I happen to love doing anything vaguely crafty. There are good options on the high street such as Faith in Nature or Method. I have a shop locally that does Faith in Nature refills so I don’t need to keep buying the bottles.
I make my own bath salts and honestly, it couldn’t be easier. I can never go back to buying ‘luxury’ bathing products ever again.
They only contain 3 ingredients and essential oils but failing that, use Epsom salts. They’re also natural and the magnesium will give you a health boost.
At the risk of sounding utterly boring, I’ve got sick of seeing my washing machine clogged up with the old residue of fabric conditioner. I’m also not convinced it’s great for the environment or our clothes. However, I really like the smell and so I’m not quite ready to give up my fabric conditioner addiction. I do try to buy more natural products but even then I’m still worrying about all the plastic packaging. This is why I’ve been determined to try to make a DIY natural fabric conditioner at home.
I’ve tried putting a few drops of essential oils into the washing machine, as well as using a homemade fabric spray afterwards. It’s not quite the same though.
After searching for a while online, I decided to give this DIY natural fabric conditioner a go using only three ingredients that I had already at home. They are epsom salts, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils.
Anyone else starting to realise that you can make almost anything from bicarbonate of soda or am I just really late to the party?
To make DIY natural fabric conditioner you will need:
1 cup of epsom salts
¼ cup of bicarbonate of soda (or baking powder if you’re in the US)
10-15 drops of essential oils. I went with sweet orange because I love the smell and it’s also supposed to be an uplifting scent. I think I was feeling a bit fed up on the day… Really any oils would work so next time I think I’ll try lavender and lemon to mix it up a bit.
To be completely transparent, mine does stick sometimes. It may be that my jar is letting in air? Or more realistically, it might be that commercial products tend to have anti-clogging agents… Regardless, it does work just fine after a quick stir.
My interest in natural and chemical free living really started after my son was born. Spending more time in the home, meant needing to clean more often and I became much more aware of the number of products on the market, all promising different things.
We now have cleaning sprays for every room in the house, plus different ones for your shower, bath, sinks and toilet. Each one promises to create a cleaner experience, eliminate all germs and leave your house sparkling. I’m a marketer’s dream and can pretty much be persuaded to buy anything – but even I started to question how different these products really could be.
I also started to think about how necessary all these chemicals actually are. Now, I’m not a scientist or chemist so I don’t have any research to back up my claims, but there just seems something wrong with needing to wear gloves to use cleaning products inside your own home. How healthy can that be? I can’t imagine all those fumes are good for us.
Impact on the environment
The reality is cleaning products contain a number of chemicals that are harmful to our waters and marine life. Every time we clean, we’re rinsing all these chemicals down the drain and they eventually end up in the sea. Plus, they come in plastic bottles, which as we all know isn’t great for the environment so where possible we should aim for better alternatives.
There are a number of eco-friendly products around and if you buy in bulk or do refills, then this cuts down on all the packaging. Although this is very dependent admittedly on where you live. There have also been times when I just haven’t had the money to pay that little bit extra for better products.
However, there are a number of ways we can keep our homes clean and germ-free using entirely natural products which can be found easily.
Here are a few chemical free living ideas
Did you know vinegar is a natural disinfectant and citrus fruit peel has anti-bacterial properties? You can make an antibacterial, disinfectant white vinegar and citrus fruit cleaning spray so easily and it costs less than a pound.
Tea tree oil is often used as an ingredient in beauty products and is known to help with oily skin and acne. It makes an excellent cleaning product too. Mix equal quantities of tea tree oil to water and use it to get rid of black mould.
Want to make a nice linen spray? Add lavender essential oil to distilled water (you can buy it online easily) and spray away. Lavender is an antiseptic as well as having stress-relieving, sleep boosting and anti-anxiety benefits so it’s helpful in a number of ways.
Possibly the greatest natural product out there is bicarbonate of soda. You can use this for practically everything (and not just baking cakes): brightening up white clothes, unblocking drains and cleaning fridges, cookers and microwaves. You can even add it to your bath and your skin will be silky smooth.
Overly clean houses and our immune systems
Research shows the best method of cleaning germs from your home is using elbow grease and hot soapy water. To further eliminate them, then use the vinegar and citrus fruit spray afterwards. As much as we’re told we just need to spray down our kitchens, worksurfaces etc, the reality is that using cleaning sprays are no real substitute for hard work. You’re just adding chemicals unnecessarily into your home.
One of my bugbears with dishwasher tablets is the amount of packaging they have. I appreciate the manufacturers wrap them separately to stop tablets from attracting moisture and crumbling. But it just seems like such a waste. Who cares if you have to throw in a few crumbs for the final wash.
Even the ones that dissolve are made from plastic (PVA – polyvinyl alcohol) aren’t what they seem. They aren’t biodegradable and leave molecules that linger in the environment. Plus all the chemicals that are washed away with the water equally don’t make me feel good.
This is why I’ve been determined to try and find a natural way of using my dishwasher. I’ve tried various methods with varying success… One batch turned out perfectly and then melted in the heat…
This method uses soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, salt and citric acid. Citric acid helps to bind the minerals together in hard water and improve the effectiveness of the other products. My best advice is to be really sparing when adding water.
How to make DIY natural dishwasher tablets
You will need:
1 cup of soda crystals 1 cup bicarbonate of soda 1 cup of kosher salt (I used Maldon for this because I had it to hand – but in future, I’m going to look for a cheaper alternative) ½ cup citric acid Drops of water I also add in a few drops of antibacterial essential oil for added cleaning power: lavender, citrus fruits, rosemary etc Silicon ice cube tray and a mixing bowl
Mix all the ingredients together and add tiny amounts of water until the mixture stops crumbling and binds together.
Firmly pack the mixture into the ice cube tray and leave to set for a few hours.
Take out of the silicon and store in an airtight jar somewhere cool.
I know it’s a self-care cliche but a bath always makes me feel better about life. It’s a moment of ‘me time’, allowing me to be fully present (rather than overthinking) and helps soak away some of the stresses of the day.
I used to love treating myself to really luxurious bath products. I felt it was a nice indulgence for someone with a busy life. If I’m also being really being honest, I liked the look of them in my bathroom too. Hello, working class aspirational roots…!
However, I started to question why they included so many chemicals, all the packaging and how good for me these products really were.
So for the last couple of years, I’ve made my own natural bath salts using only a few ingredients, essential oils and flower petals for that ultimate luxury bathing experience.
Not only does it feel great, this DIY natural bath salts is good for our health too. It’s completely chemical-free and uses only a handful of natural ingredients: Epsom salts, Himalayan salts and bicarbonate of soda. I add essential oils for an extra wellbeing boost and flower petals just because it makes the bath look so pretty. Homemade doesn’t need to look homemade after all.
Did you know you can clean your home using completely natural ingredients? Despite, cleaning products being sold to us as the only way to eradicate germs and destroy bacteria, the reality is, we can clean our homes just as safely without the use of chemicals.
I have experimented with shop bought cleaning sprays, however, I have found them more expensive and when money’s been tight (hello, maternity leave), they have been the first thing to go. So, here is an easy, DIY natural cleaning spray made from just white vinegar and orange peel. It costs pennies, takes minutes and you just need to top up the bottle every time you run out.
Citrus fruits and white vinegar are easily available and have a number of great benefits. The peel from oranges or any citrus fruits is antibacterial and antimicrobial. This means it kills bacteria and mould. White vinegar is a disinfectant meaning it kills off viruses.
How to make a DIY natural cleaning spray
You will need:
White vinegar (any brand)
Orange or any citrus fruit peel
Spray bottle – I use an amber glass bottle and top it up but any old bottle will do.
Peel the fruit and place in the jar
Pour white vinegar up to top and seal jar with lid
Leave for 2 weeks
Drain out the fruit and pour into your spray bottle using a funnel.
Dilute with water if using on more sensitive surfaces such as marble. Otherwise, spray away!
Eucalyptus is an evergreen plant native to Australia. It’s fast-growing and can be planted in the UK in a spot that gets full sunshine. There are a number of benefits of eucalyptus for your health and around the home.
It’s a medicinal plant meaning that it can be used to help treat a number of symptoms including coughs and colds. You’ve probably tasted eucalyptus in cough sweets or in vapour rubs such as Vicks.
In my opinion, it’s one of the most ‘essential’ of the essential oils because it can be used in so many different ways.
How to use eucalyptus
One of the benefits of eucalyptus is its so multi-purpose.
It can be used in two forms: as an essential oil (the leaves are steam distilled) or you can use the actual plant itself.
Here are some ideas for you to try
A eucalyptus shower
I buy bunches from my local florist (they usually sell me some clippings for about a fiver), tie into a knot and hang above the shower head. It smells absolutely divine anyway, however, the steam helps release the eucalyptus scent and is like being in a spa. I also like seeing greenery in my bathroom.
Steaming to help ease coughs and colds
Suffering with a cough or a bunged up nose? Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a sink of hot water, putting a towel over your head and breathing in the steam to help clear your airwaves.
I’m one of those people who mosquitoes tend to love and I don’t know why. I’ve tried so many ideas over the years including eating my body weight in Marmite after reading it would help (please note, it doesn’t but it will make you very popular amongst backpackers).
Also try diluting eucalyptus essential oil with witch hazel (you can buy witch hazel in health food shops, larger chemists, or online) into a spray bottle for a natural insect repellent.
Where to buy eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is often used for greenery in flower arrangements so you should be able to buy clippings from your local flower shop. I’ve found it costs anything from £5-15 depending on the size of the bunch – but a fiver’s worth is enough for a eucalyptus shower.
I also think they look great in a vase on their own.
I buy eucalyptus essential oil from Baldwin’s, an apocatherapist based in South-East London or from Tisserand (available online).
As always with essential oils buy from a reputable supplier to make sure you’re buying a proper product (and not one mixed with cheaper ingredients).
10 benefits of eucalyptus
Eucalyptus has antiviral, anticatarrhal and antibacterial properties. It helps you breathe easier and clears any mucus from your chest. It can be used to treat symptoms of sinusitis, colds, and cough.
Use by putting a few drops on your pillow or pyjamas if you’re feeling bunged up and struggling to sleep at night to help ease congestion.
It can be made into a salve for achy muscles. Eucalyptus also acts as pain relief and reduces inflammation. It can also be used for headaches by rubbing the temples. Tiger Balm is made from Eucalyptus.
Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oils to coconut oil to create a quick and easy muscle rub.
Eucalyptus has natural disinfecting properties. It can be used for cleaning wounds (always dilute first) as well as around the home.
Mix eucalyptus essential oils with water into a spray bottle and use as a natural disinfectant cleaning spray.
Recreate a home spa and create a luxury bathing experience.
Put 1-2 cups of epsom salts (helps ease achy muscles), a tablespoon of carrier oil (such as sweet almond, coconut or jojoba oil) and a few drops of eucalyptus oils into a hot bath. Mix before getting in, then relax and enjoy.
Add a few drops of eucalyptus to an essential oil diffuser.
There are a number of benefits of eucalyptus for our emotional health as well. It’s said to have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing.
Eucalyptus can help open up a room that feels a bit closed or needs brightening.
Light a eucalyptus candle such as these ones from Etsy, or make your own with eucalyptus essential oils and soy wax.
Eucalyptus helps us think clearer and brings about feelings of positivity and optimism.
Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oils to distilled water into a spray bottle and create your own uplifting spray.
It also rids us of trapped emotions and long term beliefs that no longer serve us.
Try adding a few drops to a carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba or coconut oil) and massage your temples to release negative emotions.
It’s also known as the ‘herb of protection’ helping to guard us from situations and people who may be harmful.
Mix with a carrier oil and rub on your pulse points for an extra confidence boost.
The herb can be used as a tool for expanding your boundaries and moving forward confidently and without fear.
Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a carrier oil and rub into your body’s 6 pressure points: right behind your ears; place onto each side of your nostril; massage onto your shoulders; temples; hairline; and between your eyebrows and crown of your head for your 3rd eye.
Things to note
Essential oils should be diluted to stop them causing irritation to the skin. Also be mindful if using when pregnant or on a child.
I’ve also included some affiliate links to products I have bought in the past and can verify for. I’m not suggesting Amazon is the only place to buy from – this is just to help give you some ideas.
A few years ago, it felt like Marie Kondo was everywhere talking about her KonMari method of tidying. I read a couple of articles and watched some YouTube videos showing how to fold clothes and left it at that.
By nature, I’m reasonably tidy and like everything to have a home. However, my life has changed from being a single person to having a husband and child. My living space has grown with it but I feel every surface is covered in piles of clutter. Our house has become so much of a dumping ground, it’s actually hard to open the front door because of the assortment of coats and shoes blocking the way (sadly not a joke).
I saw Tidying up with Marie Kondo whilst scrolling through Netflix. As I love to watch people go on a ‘personal journey’, I thought this would be a programme for me. I was right.
The first episode focuses on the Friend family. The Friends are a married couple with two young kids, busy lives and cupboards bursting at the seams. The parents are frazzled, snappy and life feels a bit disorganised – pretty much the universal experience of anyone with a young family.
Keep only those things that speak to your heart.
Marie Kondo comes to their home and gently teaches them how to organise their lives better. It’s less about tidying and decluttering but more about learning how to go through your possessions and storing the things you love in a systematic way.
The five lessons I learnt from Tidying up with Marie Kondo are:
Pay gratitude to your home. It’s so easy to just view your house as a mess but it’s something to feel truly grateful for. It’s where you are raising a family, it’s giving you warmth and shelter, and is helping you build a life.
Organise by category. Marie Kondo suggests you organise by category and not by room. I tend to tackle decluttering room by room but this doesn’t give you the full overview of what you really have.
Declutter in order of clothes, books, paperwork, kitchen/bathroom/garage/shed and sentimental. I think she suggests sentimental last so that you are more invested in the process and less emotional about belongings. This makes complete sense.
Hold each item to see if it brings you joy and thank it for its use. I have a tendency to hold on to clothes in the hope that I shrink back into them. Marie Kondo taught me to thank them for their use and let them go. Let’s be honest, keeping items of clothing to body shame myself with is not sparking joy.
Use drawers and boxes to store items. Anyone else have a cupboard of doom? Marie Kondo advises storing miscellaneous items in storage boxes. It makes much more sense to organise things into smaller boxes so you can see what’s in drawers and cupboards instead of shoving it all in and closing the door.
Marie Kondo has definitely given me a bit of a kick to start sorting out our home. There is a box of old Christmas decorations sitting in our spare room since we got them down from the loft with a lot of old rubbish in there. Before watching Tidying up with Marie Kondo, I would have left all the old Christmas decorations in there and piled the new ones on top – after all, they will be up in the loft where I can’t see them. However, I feel inspired to go through everything thoughtfully: all the old unwanted Christmas decorations can go with thanks and we will hold on to the ones that spark joy.
I’m becoming more mindful of the plastic I’m buying, particularly when it comes to household and bathing products. I want to cut down on what I’m buying both for myself and other people and think about alternatives to packaged shower gels and bubble baths. With that in mind, I decided to make these natural soaps using dried flowers and essential oils for Christmas gifts.
There is a very technical way to make soap. It can be quite dangerous and toxic. I have limited time and a toddler so I bought a ready-made soap base. I chose this one, which is SLS and paraben free.
I made chamomile and lemongrass soaps because I felt it would be soothing during these winter months. I have a lot of essential oils at home and so plan to experiment with a few flavour combinations.
This soapmaking method is so simple, yet still looks great.
Scatter the dried flowers on the base. They will rise to the surface once the soap base is poured in. I tried layering the soap but they didn’t feel that durable. I also think the soaps seem more natural when you can see the flowers more clearly.
Cut the soap into roughly a bar of soap per soap mould. The soap cuts like butter so you’ll just need a kitchen knife.
Put the soap base in the plastic jug and microwave. I blast it for 30 seconds and heat it up slowly to stop bubbles forming.
Let the soap set slightly to get rid of any bubbles.
Pour into the mould. Try to do this slowly and let the flowers rise up.
I have a lot of great cooks in my family so I wanted to give them something they would actually use. I decided to make flavoured chilli salts because who doesn’t like a bit of extra spice in their life.
You need about one teaspoon of chilli flakes and one teaspoon of paprika per quarter cup of sea salt. However, this can really be adjusted to taste.
I used the container to help measure and whizzed everything up in my nutribullet. I used a teaspoon to put the flavoured chilli salts back in but if you were fairly steady of hand, you could just pour it.
And that’s it. Done.
I think they would look great with some brown paper labels explaining the contents.
In recent years I’ve become much more conscious about stuff: how much stuff I have and how much stuff I’m buying. I particularly feel this trigger at Christmas time when I’m also aware that I’m filling someone else’s life with things that they probably don’t want or need. However, I really love gift giving and treating people so I always make everyone in my family at least one handmade Christmas present.
I also think there is something really lovely about a handmade gift and knowing someone has given their time. In truth, handmade doesn’t tend to be cheaper when comparing to high street goods. One person on their own doesn’t have the buying power of a mass-market corporation. However, I try to buy organic and sustainable materials so I feel the quality is much better. I also try to reuse and recycle where I can with the hope that what I’m giving is more sustainable.
One of the handmade Christmas gifts I like to make is candles. The best bit is that it couldn’t be easier. There is a much more specialist way of making candles. However, I’ve found this to also produce really good results.
The easy handmade candle method
Candle making materials
Something to hold the candle in such as jam jars, vintage cups, spice jars, tins etc. Look for something that’s not too skinny as I find they collect soot otherwise.