Confession – Imposter Syndrome

So this one is a confession blog. Later in the week there will be a positive one on Ice Cream (I promise) but this one has to get written. Mainly because it proves that even with the best will in the world we will all get it wrong – including me. I have been very inspired by the number of friends altering their lifestyles – those changing toothbrushes, or noticing how much plastic packaging is around. What’s even more touching is they relate it to me and Steve having a go at giving up plastic that has inspired them to change their buying habits too.

In college this week (I study at a theological college in Manchester called Luther King House) we talked amongst other things in chapel about Imposter Syndrome. It’s a simple idea really and almost what it says on the tin. We all experience Imposter Syndrome, I would guess, at various points in our lives. An easy example would be starting a new job and fearing someone realising that you “can’t do the job” and might get “found out”. This last week I have felt like an imposter when it comes to giving up plastic because despite still not buying plastic in the staples and day-to-day living, I have accidentally bought a whole load of (and this is the worst bit) single-use plastic.

It all started just through simple lack of thought. Steve and I have been married for over a year now and we decided now was the time to get on putting up our wedding photos. Now it is not the photos I have that much of an issue (partly because I actually don’t know if photos have plastic in them – I suspect so but would love it if anyone out there knows) but the frames. Steve and i “ummed” and “rrrd” for ages about how to share our photos – through canvas or frames and in the end we went for frames and I then bought a set of them off Ebay without thinking.

The frames themselves I had presumed were wood are plastic. The “glass” is indeed not glass but plastic. But worst of all I never even considered that it would come wrapped in layers of bubble wrap (which we intend to reuse now) and lots of thin layers of (unclear if recyclable) plastic. It is an epic fail.

The weird thing is I just never considered it. I never thought about the fact the price was a “bargain”. It probably wouldn’t be if it had been made of wood and glass. I never even stopped to consider delivery might involve plastic (partly I suspect because we have really stopped buying lots of stuff off the internet and was out of habit). I guess it just proves how easy it is to forget in moments of tiredness/excitement/”braindeadidness”.

Now I am left with this to dispose of (thinking of maybe sticking it in the recycling bin just in case it can be recycled).

img_3931-1

The photos looks great but I am sad that although they are everything that we wanted looks wise the impact of us having them on our wall will be felt for generations after us from the throwaway single use plastic that it came wrapped in and eventually from the currently non-recyclable plastic the frames are made from. It made me think how easy it is to get it wrong.

image1-24
I also wanted to offer this blog out there to all my friends who have expressed over the last few months “guilt”. They feel “guilty” because they aren’t doing it to the same ‘nth’ degree as me – although all those who have said they feel “guilty” are the ones trying to make positive lifestyle changes. I want to say look I get it wrong too and I feel guilty BUT the whole point is to keep trying. I don’t intend to give up on reducing my plastic use because I have made this (pretty massive) error.  Furthermore, I am being mindful to only look at the photos and have good feeling as they recollecting a great day in my life so far. Guilt doesn’t help us get better in our lifestyles. Positive mindfulness might – all of which you great folks are trying to do in your own ways. So thank you to all those “guilty” friends out there for making positive steps forward. Each step makes a difference. Let us continue our travels together.

Homemade yogurt – a success!

So, this blog post really must first acknowledge this other blog post as it is where I first learnt how to make yogurt without the need of a yogurt maker!

This is the blog post I used: http://trinaholden.com/easiest-yogurt-recipe-ever/

What’s great is it seemed foolproof. I have met several people who have made their own yogurt – some using flasks, other yogurt machines. My concern was two fold. Firstly, I didn’t trust myself somehow – I was worried that without a yogurt machine I might make myself ill. Secondly that I would end up buying a yogurt maker which would mean buying plastic. This would not have been bad (as I would be reusing the plastic at least) but not ideal with our aim to be as plastic free as possible. This blog made it possible and second batch in I am happy.

For our first patch I had to buy a live yogurt. I chose a fairly thick yogurt. Fage Total is the brand I used. This did involve buying plastic but it was necessary for the first batch. We are now re-using the packaging as our indoor compost bin before we take it outside to our “real” compost bin, so it has not ended up being recycled but reused for now.

I then followed the instructions pretty similarly. One difference was that I did was and sterilise the glass kilner jar in the oven (probably not needed as she says because the milk is so hot but I want to be extra careful). I then heated the milk on the stove (actually a little too much on the first batch as it boiled over but weirdly still worked! So if this happens to you go for it as it seems to not be a problem).

Next after pouring the very very hot milk into the kilner jar I waited for it to cool. For one pint (or just under having lost some for boiling over) this did not take very long – maybe 5 minutes (I placed it in cold water each time). The last batch was made with 1.5 pints and took around 10-15 minutes for it too cool to “touching temperature” which is when you add in the old “live” yogurt.

For the first batch of 1 pint I added in around 3 tablespoons of bought yogurt into it, folding gently. For the second batch of 1.5 pints I added in around ⅕ – ¼ of the kilner jar into it pouring it in. The second batch is definitely thinner but still recognisably Greek Yogurt. I am hoping to never have to buy Greek Yogurt again but may have to “top” the thickness up it appears as I learnt in a conversation with my new supervisor this morning (who makes his own yoghurt). We shall see and I will let you know if and when this happens.

I was most worried about just leaving it in “hottest tap water” for 8 hours. Worried because it seemed too simple. I needn’t have worried it has worked both time, although I think as the original blogger notes it only works if you have a large enough amount of yogurt (and I would add) in a wide enough jar. I am using a 1 litre kilner jar wherever it comes up to and this seems to be working. I am thrilled it has worked and just really hope to continue this as a form of breakfast/ snack, all of course coming from milkman brought glass milk.

For the visual learners this is a picture story of what I did:

 

  1. Glass Jar is cleaned. 2. Milk boiled. 3. Milk cooled, yogurt added lid closed and placed in “hottest tap water”. 4. Yogurt – been in the fridge overnight and stirred together. 5. Eaten for breakfast with bit of jam (if you add more of this in it becomes a flavoured yogurt) and oats.

Growing Veg – starts here…

Today is a good day. Today I accidentally discovered I had grown some potatoes. Before I left for my 5 weeks away I had planted in pots various different vegetables. Today was the day I finally put these plants out of pots and into the soil.

 

Yesterday I started the process by digging up a patch of our lawn. For me this is something I have wanted to do for a long time but I have been kinda daunted. Partially because we have inherited a real gardeners garden – it is a gorgeous typical English countryside cottage garden which as a non gardener is a dream but also feels quite a responsibility. Tomorrow I plan to tackle the weeds which have grown so fast (despite Steve doing his best) in the last five week. I have also been daunted because this garden has a beautiful lawn that was kept well for us by the church whilst no-one lived here. But finally, yesterday, having arrived home from my travels I decided it was now the time. I needed a veg patch.

It was undeniably a work out. I went to bed exhausted but feeling excited about finally planting out the beetroot, beans, cauliflower and onions today. (Big thanks to my parents for keeping the beans and beetroot going whilst I was away). And as you can see in the image below I did it – I planted them all into my small plot of soil.

image1-37
The wool is supposed to stop slugs…I have not gone mad!

I then went back round and looked at the plants in pots that seem to have failed. I was making a mental note about re-using the soil for starting off new plants next week when I suddenly thought I had two potato plants before I left that were doing well, they hadn’t flowered yet but they were growing strong. So, I started to dig through the pots and discovered these:

image2 (17).JPG

Now these are not a patch on our friend Tom’s potatoes but for plants grown out of one pot I am pretty pleased. As you can see one potato has gone off (live and learn) but we have a handful of small potatoes which will do nicely in a salad. It’s a small haul but a beginning. Part of going non plastic will be greatly made easier the more food we can grow ourselves. It all has to start somewhere and I am honestly pretty thrilled to begin with these few potatoes. Hopefully in a few weeks we may have a few more home grown vegetables…maybe one day even enough to share out.

The Netherlands – An Attempt at Plastic Free…but *warning* it contains plastic

I am nearly at the end of my 5 week away placement as part of my ministry training. The last two of these weeks has been spent in the Netherlands based in The Hague area but in fact travelling to a fair few places. Unlike in Germany I have eaten out more and indeed bought more food out too (whilst also being on the receiving end of lots of Surinamese home-cooked hospitality, although this has often been transported away in plastic). I feel I have had a more realistic exposure as to how easy it is to live here without plastic in terms of food shopping/drinking and have to say that overall I think it is as hard as it is living in the U.K. (maybe even harder, but this maybe because I don’t know the right places). In addition, I have to confess, there are times when I have had to buy food in plastic either because I haven’t known enough of the plans in advance to organise a plastic-free lunch or occasionally because I have wanted to try a delicacy that is typical of the Netherlands that is wrapped in plastic and have gone for it. And there was the odd chocolate too…

However, I can see that if you wanted to you could largely do well in the Netherlands if you lived here more permanently and planned ahead. In this sense it is very like the U.K. You just can’t as easily pick up food plastic free on the go as it feels like you could have in Germany (or for me in the U.K.). Here in the Netherlands it is all about planning ahead. That being said there are some things the Netherlands are doing better in than in some areas of the U.K.

Fresh Fruit and Veg

The markets throughout the Netherlands are a good source of non-plastic food (so long as you take a bag with you like in the U.K. – there is a plastic bag charge here too (yey!) ). I went round markets in The Hague and Rotterdam and can honestly say that there seems to be a greater variety of food available at these markets that is plastic free than the ones in Sheffield or Derby (maybe not other places in the U.K. though). I was particularly impressed with the choices of fruit that was plastic free (unlike in the supermarkets here which is basically coated in the stuff). I was also impressed to find in a random little shop in Amsterdam (in a tourist area too) blackberries and raspberries that were packaged in a way that was plastic free – the first I have ever seen other than ones picked straight off the fields.

image7.JPG
Found in Amsterdam

 

Nuts and Spices

In Rotterdam market you could also do better at buying things like nuts and spices which you could purchase by weight and weren’t pre-wrapped in plastic. I really love this and really wish this was in the places I was living. We love our spices and nuts in the Maxwell house as both are just so useful for cooking with nuts being a helpful thing to nibble on so you don’t get hangry (we’ve all been there). I am going to see when I get back home over the next few weeks if I can find a similar stall somewhere in Derby as I suspect there must be I have just not found it yet!

 

Drinking

One area that was actually relatively easy to do plastic free was grab a drink as a lot of the places I visited in the Netherlands (from small cafes by beaches to supermarkets in cities) offered water in glass although it was a bit more expensive. There was also milk in glass to grab which I loved and would like to see more of in the U.K. Like in Germany, recycling glass bottles and plastic was an option – with the nearest supermarket in Zoetermeer paying you for your recycling of these goods.

image6

 

Furthermore in Gouda I spotted these bad boys…

image4 (3)
Love the proud caption by shop owner :) 

 

This was a little independent shop but I have yet to see a shop in the U.K. with such a large selection of plastic free bottles at what looked like reasonable prices. This is the first offline choice of plastic free containers I have seen which seems to suggest in this area, at least in Gouda that the Netherlands is ahead!

Inside the Government

My placement here led me at one point to be inside a government building for a meeting. In the meeting room was this rather exciting machine:

image11

Again it seems to suggest that  in this area the Netherlands are striving forward with this being a “standard” bin throughout the conference rooms in the area we were in. It maybe a case of we were in the right building for this kind of level of recycling but I suspect not. The cups put out for us, although disposable, were already made of recyclable cardboard. Furthermore, the bin suggests they will also be recycled again. The only thing better would be to use porcelain cups but this is a good step forward.  I know in the U.K. I have seen some bins in Universities and cities which separate trash to a similar level but never in a political setting that I have noticed (I will willingly be proved wrong on this one).

Eating Out

Generally eating on the go is a plastic nightmare in the Netherlands – grabbing a plastic free sandwich feels nearly impossible. However, sitting down eating out is similar to the U.K. Hard to regulate exactly how much plastic is used to make your meal but you are highly unlikely to end up with plastic on your table (in the Netherlands knives and forks generally came wrapped in paper or a napkin). This is a photo though of me and the lovely lady, Lucille, who has been hosting me eating out at a place that made pasta from scratch (which was stored in paper bags) – so here at least it was plastic free in terms of the pasta!

image3 (11)

Snacks

So, as I mentioned at the start, snacking plastic free has at times been challenging. Below is just one example of when it has been a case of choosing to try the local cuisine totally took over (and I may have had a few!). This is a ginger cake which both my supervisor and host have introduced me to as being classically “Netherlands”.

image5 (3)

 

Overall I would love to shop in the Netherlands for fruit and veg as here they are definitely ahead of the U.K. in terms of variety – it would make our food choices more interesting at home if we had access to as much fruit and veg as is possible to buy on markets here. Being in the Netherlands has exposed me to both Dutch and Surinamese foods, some of which I hope to emulate when I get home. So watch this space to see if I can find the plastic free ingredients –  Fingers crossed!!

Germany – My experience of avoiding plastic here

So I have nearly been in Germany for three weeks – I leave this Monday coming so figured now is as good a time as any to reflect on plastic-free living here versus at home in Ockbrook. Briefly I just want to start by commenting on the bin system here versus the U.K.

It feels to me that the German recycling system is miles ahead. They have bins for everything and schemes whereby you are incentivised to take back and recycle goods such as glass bottles for cash. Talking to the family I have got to know the most as it includes the two ministers who supervise me they rarely throw things out into the non recycling bins. In total as a family of 3-4 folks they can cope with a once a month collection. They are just reusing or recycling the rest. Furthermore it is just “natural” to compost things.

Now obviously there are lots of people in the U.K. doing this/ aiming for it (including the Maxwell household) but the difference seems to be that at least here in Herrnhut, Saxony this is just normal – this is taking no extra effort. It is clearly built into the lifestyle.  This is inspiring in so many ways as reducing our general levels of waste ( plastic or otherwise) is ideal and it is great to see a country striding ahead in this area as well as other areas.

Shopping here for the times I have needed to pick up lunch has made a few other things clear. They are so much better at not packaging fruit in plastic. I have really fallen in love (again) with Nectarines after finding them almost impossible to find plastic free in the U.K. Vegetables are not in plastic but these seems to be fairly available in the U.K. too so here it seems pretty even – neither Germany nor the U.K. seem to be ahead of one another as I have also seen both offer plastic wrapped vegetables.

I love Nectarines - there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!
I love Nectarines – there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!

Germany seems better at pasta. This Barilla brand seem readily available (with lots of different pasta shapes) and it has no plastic in it. When I get home I intend to research this brand further to see who actually produces it and see if something similar might be possible in the U.K. As much as I do actually enjoy making my own pasts for things like camping this would be a God-send.

image2 (12)

 

 

image1 (19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Germany has Milk as standard in glass in the shops (although it is sometimes UHT style I am given to understand). Similarly apple and orange juice in glass is standard and not hard to come by which has been really enjoyable and a nice change. This is not to say they don’t have plastic options – they do – it is just fresh juice and milk can be bought with little effort in glass down the shops unlike in my experience in the U.K.

One area Germany seems to do worse on is chocolate – not that the U.K. is great. So things like Fairtrade chocolate here in Herrnhut will seem to come in a cardboard but in fact they then have a sneaky plastic covering inside the cardboard where in the U.K. this would usually be foil or non at all.

Overall Germany seems to be limiting its use of plastics more than the U.K. or at least where I have lived and visited. Unlike in the U.K. I wouldn’t fear not having a packed lunch with me whilst travelling in Germany as most of the time I think I could get enough plastic-free bits together to make a packed lunch out – but that maybe the area of Germany I am in. I go onto the Netherlands on Monday and hope to be able to do a similar comparison. I have really enjoyed the fresh fruit here and am hoping that this plastic free easy option will continue in the Netherlands. We shall see.

White Bathrooms and sparkling sinks

Cleaning is never fun (O.K. for most people it is never fun – I know one person who loves it). Trying to do it with the same ease, cleanliness level that produces the same look with non-plastic products is never easy. Here are a few tips I just want to share with you that have really helped me :) 

So I had the wonderful Emily visit a few weeks back and she shared this little one with me. Emily works in a cafe and it has to be said is trying to reduce her plastic intake in little ways. This one though is a gem for those who get mad at marks on their sinks/ silver surfaces like oven tops and is rather pleasingly simple.

Sparkling Sinks Recipie

  1. Get vinegar (we have brown in so I use this) squirt around on surfaces and then wipe clean. You could leave it here but if you like it to stay clean a little longer do this second stage.
  2. Get out your olive oil/sunflower oil Just add a few drops to the surface and massage in. Simple but effective in creating a slight layer of protection at least for a few uses.

I forgot to take a photo – my bad….but try it and share your photo success with me :) 

Making White Bathrooms White

Before our old bathroom suite was not white. I didn’t realise how much of a blessing this was until I moved home since ditching the plastic. Suddenly I was getting frustrated that no matter how much I cleaned the bathroom with diluted vinegar it didn’t look shiny. A quick internet search later and here is the tip I have been using and loving for the last few weeks.

  1. Put onto surface of sink/ bathroom/shower/toilet ect. A squirt of washing up liquid.
  2. Now add in bi-carb of soda.
  3. Now, without adding any water scrub the two together over the area. We use a body scrub to do our scrubbing with.
  4. Now wash clean and dry with toilet roll/ whatever you use.

Ta-da you should now be the proud owner of a white.

(Before and After)

CUCUMBER!!!

So, we have lived here in our new location nearly two months and how time has flown. Since then our plastic free lives have continued with some tricky moments but largely rather successfully🙂 We have had fish and chips take out from “Our Plaice” in Borrowash which was all wrapped in non-plastic (perfect for those evening when cooking is too much). However, we were still struggling to find a supplier of some more basic supplies.

Until a couple of weeks ago I discovered this amazing shop – in Derby city centre, not far from either the bus station or the market (where you can easily get lots of plastic-free fruit and veg). I was so excited. To get to it you just get dropped off the stop before the end stop at the bus station!

image1 (17)

image2 (10)

Not only could we find out supply of toilet paper brand but we also found some of these gems:

image5 (2)
Apologies for this image being upside down – but Degradable Freezer Bags🙂
image4 (1)
We already had the brush but now we have found an easy replacement head! Winning – and just in time :) 
image3 (6)
Plastic Free Cucumber!!

This shop has a good range of things a shop in Sheffield Called Beanies has including egg-free mayo (for all my vegan plastic free folks out there). Toothbrushes that are made from bamboo. However it also does plastic free nappies (some of my friends will find this exciting).

The ultimate moment for me was the plastic free cucumber! So good to eat and enjoy – the first this year we have managed to find that is plastic free. Chatting to the person on the till she said this is in often so hopefully this means that cucumber will once again appear in our home🙂

Moving has been relatively easy. We have been blessed by a nice area, friends who are nearby and a good community around us. This shop has been just another blessing and one I hope is helpful to others who are living / passing through the area. I believe there is a cafe next door too which is related to this shop🙂 One to enjoy very soon.