Tuesday 31 March 2020

Review - Charcoal Water Filter

This is my 18th review on plastic alternatives in my bid to reduce 50 plastic items this year. Hope you enjoy! 

Scoring system: 

❤ = Will keep, I love it / 👀 = Not sure, will try some more / 😐 = Oh dear, it's not for me

Review Eighteen - Black & Blum Charcoal Water Filter

I know what you're thinking - why on Earth would someone trying to reduce plastics need a water filter - surely tap water would do? After all, it's plastic free AND is supposed to be just as good as bottled water according to some studies. 

My gripe with tap water is down to two things - one is I hate the taste and smell of chlorine. My senses are super strong and it literally hits me with the smell. We also have exceptionally hard water in our area leading to limescale. 

For years we've been using Brita water filters. It does seem to help somewhat with scaly kettles and I haven't noticed chlorine smells. Of course these are encased in plastic containers, which made me want to look for alternatives. 

Brita filters can be recycled, although our local Argos (a previous collection point) had moved and we weren't sure where to take the used up cartridges. So when I came across the Black & Blum charcoal filter in Ethical Superstore I thought I'd give it a try.

My review

I used the Black & Blum charcoal filter inside our Brita jug, filled it up and left it overnight. The advice is to leave it for 8 hours for good effect. 

It says on their site that it can help with water softening and chlorine. 'Binchotan is an active carbon made from tree branches and is renowned for its ability to soften water, add good minerals and absorb unwanted tastes and odours, such as chlorine.'

After just two weeks I'd noticed limescale building up in the kettle after a very short time. I also noticed occasionally a chlorine smell and a slight film was appearing on the water. 

The product can be used for up to six months (boil after the first three months) however we decided after the first three months that we'd go back to using Brita cartridges.

So sadly the experiment didn't work for us, so I score this an 😐 = Oh dear, it's not for me!

Black and Blum Binchotan Charcoal Water Filter

On a good note, we found where we can recycle our Brita cartridges - Argos had moved into Sainsbury's and the recycling point had been moved there, close to the Brita jug section, so any Brita filters we do use we continue to send off for recycling. 

There's a video on how Brita cartridges are recycled on their site.

If you prefer bottled water, Highland Spring have one available in a glass bottle or sometimes I use Harrogate water which is made using a 50% recycled plastic bottle.

If you're in an area where water is not exceptionally hard, or smell strongly of chlorine then tap water is perfectly fine!

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Positive News for Spring

5 More Feel Good Stories for Spring
We like to keep things upbeat, let's take a look at some positive news for 2020 💕 

1. Whales are making a come back. 
Did you know that 75% of the planet’s surface is covered by ocean? Did you know also that trees are not the only things that help absorb CO2?

Per the Good News Network (Mar 2020): Dr. Chiami, an economist at the International Monetary Fund found that just a 1% increase in phytoplankton in the sea would capture hundreds of millions of tons of additional CO2 a year.
Dr. Ralph Chiami highlights the influence that whales, especially great blue whales—and their poo—have on climate change. It is all due to the predominance of whale fecal matter in the diets of the tiny ocean dwellers called phytoplankton.

It's reassuring therefore to see blue whales making a comeback (see reports below).

'Researchers counted 36 sightings of 55 critically endangered Antarctic blue whales during their 2020 trip, up from just one sighting of two whales in 2018, according to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) team.'

According to Eco watch (Feb 2020): 'In addition to Antarctic blue whales, BAS recorded 790 humpback whales over 21 days, and estimates that there are now more than 20,000 of them feeding off the island in the summer.'

2. New Climate Change Rules in Europe

According to BBC Environmental News (Mar 2020): 'New rules could spell the death of a "throwaway" culture in which products are bought, used briefly, then binned.' (I can hear you all saying hurrah!)

'The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items such as mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging.'

This initiative is set by the EU, but word is Britain will also benefit, as manufacturers may not be willing to design products for two different markets. 
Let's hope we can do away with our throw away culture, as manufacturers purposefully build in a form of obsolescence to encourage people to buy more.

3. Wax worm has an appetite for plastic!

Wax worms are maggot like creatures which are larvae from a moth that likes to eat the waxy material found in bee hives. They have a special type of bacteria in their guts that acts like an enzyme that helps to digest wax. The discovery though was by accident -when a bee hive was decimated and the worms disposed of in a plastic bag, they merrily digested their way out of it!

This is not to say we should be releasing lots of wax eating moth maggots out into the world but studying how they digest plastic and break it all down is useful science - although of course we do need to reduce our reliance on plastics in the first place.

See initial article in the National Geographic (April 2017).  

In Mar 2020 scientists in Canada discovered these worms can survive entirely off a plastic diet and a form of alcohol is produced as a result!

4. Yorkshire Tea have Fine Tuned their PLA Teabags

Yorkshire tea had some teething problems during their first release of plastic reduced tea bags. Some of the bags would split open, so with the help of Sheffield University they fine tuned their production and are pleased to announce a new version of tea bags (Mar 2020).

They are keen to emphasise that they prefer NOT to call them 'plastic free' as natural plastics are still used (but thankfully not petro chemical ones). PLA plastics can be made from corn, coconut, banana leaf and all sorts of other natural fibres.
Click here to see how other tea companies are doing to reduce their plastics in tea.

5. Farm Trial Declared a Success for Wild Life

Positive News Site (Mar 2020) 
reports that a trial subsidy scheme to allow farmers in England to use their land to encourage biodiversity has been a success. 
'The two-year pilot was carried out on farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire. According to Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which led the trial, participating farms had 43 per cent more seed-bearing plants than nearby sites that claim existing subsidies. Such plants provide a rich food source for birds in winter.'

This trial was co-funded by the EU, let's hope the British government keeps up the good work to help protect our local countryside, as we certainly need to do more!

Before You Go!

I leave you with a video on what it's like to save trees and how 50 million trees have changed the world. 

Do consider helping to support Ecosia, this is a web search engine tool that donates trees for clicks so you can donate just by doing your daily browsing. Enjoy!

Some Other Links of Interest:

Positive News Jan 2020  / Lovelier Planet News 2019 
Can Seagrass Help Us Breathe? / Trees for Life

Monday 16 March 2020

Review - Turn the Tide on Plastic

This is my 17th review on plastic alternatives. Hope you enjoy!

Scoring system: 

❤ = Will keep, I love it / 👀 = Not sure, will try some more / 😐 = Oh dear, it's not for me

Review Seventeen - Turning the Tide on Plastic 

The paperback book 'Turning the Tide on Plastic' is written by Lucy Siegle. Some may be familiar with Lucy as she regularly appears on the One Show (UK TV). She (like me) loves facts, figures and statistics. The author includes quotes for her words at the bottom of each page so curious minds can read up more later.

The book reads very much like a novel - at first I was a little bemused when I saw no graphics, no colour, no imagery at all. I am a lover of colour and variety, so at first I thought I would struggle to absorb the text, without anything to break it up. But to be honest I only managed to read bits at a time anyway, so it really didn't matter not having anything to break up the text.

Review on Turning the Tide on Plastic Book by Lucy Siegle

Lucy has a lot of knowledge on the subject and explains it in a way that most households can appreciate. I found myself writing notes of things to look into later! 

She explains the need to take action now. 'Without big action, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the seas.' 'It is estimated that 5.1 trillion tiny pieces of plastic litter the world's oceans.' are examples of quotes to make us all think.

My Verdict?

I found the writing matter of fact and helpful and something you can pick up and read a bit at a time to absorb the information. I think for me, seeing graphics does lift up my interest, but I realise graphics means colour print which can push up the costs and extra ink. I guess it's down to the reader what they prefer. Beth Terry's book I reviewed in a previous post had a mix of graphics and text and is my preferred choice of the two.

Having said that, the text is more relevant to UK readers than Beth's and I found the links at the bottom of the pages and the resources section at the back very useful, so I will score it a love ❤ from me! 

♻ See also our list of books on the following pages:


Tuesday 3 March 2020

Mother's Day & World Book Day

A Look at Mother's Day, World Book Day & Some Gift Ideas
When is Mother's Day?

In the UK, Mother's Day is on 22nd March 2020. Also known as Mothering Sunday, it usually falls on the 4th week of lent and in the US it falls on the 2nd Sunday in May. It's also known as the Virgin Mary Day in some catholic countries. Dates however vary widely from country to country (see wikipedia for more).

Flowers and cards are a firm favourite as gifts for the matriarch of the family. If you're looking to reduce plastics in your life, one way is to avoid buying cards with glitter* and if you have a gift, make your own wrapping paper from magazines, acid free sheets of tissue or fabrics and tie with string. 

*Plastics in glitter/wrapping paper was mentioned in our xmas post last year.

For card ideas, I recently came across a lovely site called Tree Cards. The card itself comes with seeds that Mum can plant and a tree is planted with every purchase. Each card is made from recycled wood pulp and printed using vegetable dye inks. What a lovely thought, especially as the season of Spring is a perfect time of year for planting seeds.

Sainsbury's back in September 2019 announced a trial of offering flowers wrapped in recyclable paper and sealed with recyclable paper tape. This was only available in 160 stores as a trial but plastic wrapping on flowers is something to be aware of when you're choosing gifts for the eco conscious mum. 

Or offer a gift of a trip to a gardening centre where mum can choose her own growing plant (although sadly many are sold in plastic pots!) It's great to see from September 2019, Dobbie's Garden Centres are offering to take back old plant pots for recycling. Or a trip out to her favourite park and cafe would be a nice a gift too. 

An alternative to flowers, is to try seed bomb kits which are available in tins, hessian bags or cardboard pillow envelopes. The seed balls can be thrown in the garden and contain compost and clay to keep the seeds nurtured. I have seen some with chilli pepper mixed in also to deter pesky pests as they begin to grow. 

Handmade Seed Balls / Seed Bombs / Seed Pods Homemade

Another thought is alternative wash cloths*. Scouring pads often have plastic mesh to provide the scrubbing side. If it says 'poly' something on the label it most likely contains plastic. Sellers on etsy have alternatives called non sponge or unsponges. These can be made from cotton, linen, hessian, bamboo and other natural products making them suitable for composting at the end of their lives. Many are also machine washable.

*It may seem strange buying something to wash up for mum but to be honest I find them very cheerful as I have several myself. The cloths come in so many designs so if mum likes birds or flowers or even whales, she can have a cloth adorning her kitchen sink with her fave image to admire on a daily basis. I even use mine in the bathroom as a face cloth!

World Book Day Coming Soon!

UK Schools are gearing up for World Book Day on Thursday 5th March 2020. 

Per wikipedia, 'World Book Day is a charity event held annually in the United Kingdom and Ireland on the first Thursday in March. On World Book Day, every child in full-time education in the UK is given a voucher to be spent on books.'

Reading is perfect for fun and imagination and helps readers switch off from the world around them. Conversely, reading can also be a way of learning about the world around them. 

Lovelierplanet has produced a list of 10 adult friendly books on reducing plastics and 10 eco-friendly books suitable for children.

I learnt a lot from Beth Terry, author of How I Kicked the Plastic Habit (see my review for more). Meanwhile, happy reading and here's to Mother Earth on Mother's Day!