Category

Home and Garden

Home and Garden

Why You Shouldn’t Throw Things Away In The Name of Sustainability

why you shouldn't throw things out in the name of sustainability

In this sustainability sphere of the internet, something I feel that isn’t said often enough is, quite simply, don’t throw things away in the name of sustainability.

When I write about ethical fashion I always say that the most ethical clothes are the ones you already own. The same runs true for all other aspects of your home – the most sustainable items are the ones you already have.

There seems to be some eco-pressure, perhaps stemming through social media – to have beautiful ‘sustainable’ homes where not a scrap of plastic exists. This popular zero-waste account certainly makes it feel that way, and I also freely admit that I share the bits of my house on the blog and Instagram that are the most “on brand” with Moral Fibres. The reality is that there are things in my house that don’t fit in with the eco-friendly ‘aesthetic’, but actually are sustainability superheroes and don’t get the attention they deserve.

To name but a few:

  • In my kitchen drawer, you’ll find swathes of tomato stained and oil stained Tupperware tubs. Rather than throw them in the bin and replacing them with “eco-friendly” metal or glass tubs, you bet your life that I am using those tubs until they reach the end of their life. We are replacing them as they break, with glass ones, but I fully expect to have some plastic Tupperware until I’m 85. I don’t care how nasty the old plastic ones look – the most eco-friendly thing to do is always use and reuse what you have.
  • In a related category, we have heaps of plastic storage boxes, some bought a decade ago, that I’m not prepared to throw away simply because they are made of plastic. I’m using them and proud, but going forward if we need to buy any more will look for alternatives.
  • Likewise, plastic utensils. We have some. I’m not replacing them until they break.
  • Under my sink, you’ll find a collection of plastic carrier bags. These enter our life through one way or another, but again, these boys get used and used again. Apparently, plastic bags should be used four times in order for it to be more environmentally friendly than a single-use plastic bag. Meanwhile, paper bags need to be reused 3 times, and cotton bags need to be reused a staggering 131 times before they are more environmentally friendly than a single-use carrier bag. I reuse and reuse and once they are done I’ll use then for landfill waste.

I could go on about home my house isn’t visually some kind of utopia of sustainability, but I don’t beat myself up about any of these. It’s easy to be led to believe that living completely without plastic is the pinnacle of sustainable living, but in truth, you can’t shop your way to sustainability. Things like flying less, and eating a more plant-based diet, will have a more positive environmental impact than binning perfectly good Tupperware for things made from more sustainable materials.

By all means, switch to more sustainably produced alternatives when items need replacing, but in the meantime use your old plastic Tupperware with pride, tomato stains and all. Reuse any plastic bags that come your way. Don’t feel any guilt – you’re doing a super job, even if it isn’t particularly photogenic.

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

A Plastic-Free Cleaning Hack (No Vinegar Required!)

plastic-free cleaning hack

This post contains affiliate links denoted by *

Who Loves A Plastic-Free Cleaning Hack?

I certainly love a good plastic-free cleaning hack.  I make most of my own homemade cleaning products, a lot of which are made without plastic.

Then there are the cleaning products that are made with vinegar.  Now, I love white vinegar and buy my vinegar in bulk, but of course, it comes in a five-litre plastic carton.

I use white vinegar a lot in my cleaning and laundry, so for me, it’s good environmental practice to purchase bulk white vinegar rather than individual plastic bottles of chemically dubious shop bought cleaning products.

However, I have had people ask me if there is a plastic-free way to buy white vinegar in large volumes. The simple answer so far is there is no way to buy white vinegar in bulk sizes in anything but plastic.  Vinegar corrodes metal, and a five-litre glass bottle would be difficult to transport and prone to breakage.

Even if you buy vinegar from a packaging-free shop, that vinegar probably arrived at the shop in a five-litre plastic carton because there’s no other easy way to transport 5 litres of vinegar in anything but plastic. Plastic it is, sadly.

However, I recently discovered a clever plastic-free cleaning hack from Dri-Pak that acts as a brilliant white vinegar substitute.  It also had the added benefit that it doesn’t smell like vinegar if you or a family member is a little nose sensitive to white vinegar.

What is it?  A humble £2 cardboard box of Citric Acid*.

plastic-free cleaning

With this little plastic-free box of wonder, you can create vinegar-free cleaning sprays for your home, or use it in place of vinegar in most natural cleaning recipes that call for vinegar.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is an acid compound found naturally in citrus fruits, particularly lemon and limes, but can also be formulated by fermenting sugars. Visually, it looks a lot like sugar.

Its name sounds a little scary, but it’s actually a key component in home-brewing beer, and in bath bombs.  Because it’s naturally found in food; used in food and drink production; and also easily biodegrades, then it’s 100% safe to use around the home in green cleaning with a few caveats for safe making and usage, of course (see below).

How to Make a Plastic-Free Vinegar Substitute

cleaning with citric acid

Ingredients & Equipment Required

  • 500 ml hot water (boil first, and then allow to cool for 10 minutes)
  • A measuring jug and spoon
  • 2 tablespoons citric acid – I buy my boxes of Dri-Pak citric acid online from Big Green Smile* – they conveniently arrive in plastic-free packaging.  The citric acid box is even wrapped in a compostable bag, in case of spillage in transit, that I then use for kitchen scraps.  Alternatively, for a local supplier, try homebrew shops, Asian supermarkets, chemists, or hardware shops.
  • 500 ml spray bottle – recycle an old glass or plastic bottle – glass vinegar bottles are ideal –  and spray nozzle, or you can purchase a glass spray bottle here*.
  • Optional: a few drops of your favourite essential oil

Method

Pour the hot water into your measuring jug.

Stirring well, dissolve the citric acid in the hot water.

Add 20 drops of essential oil if required.  I went for 10 drops of lemon essential oil* and 10 drops of rosemary essential oil for a Mediterranean scented cleaning spray but feel free to use what you have to hand.  Lavender essential oil and tea tree essential oil are both great anti-bacterial options, for example.

Decant the mixture into your spray bottle and off you go!  How’s that for a clever plastic-free cleaning hack?!

What Can You Clean With Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a great all-round cleaner.  It kills bacteria, mould, and mildew, and is brilliant for general disinfecting and cleaning.  Where it comes into its own is that it’s really effective at removing soap scum, hard water stains, calcium deposits, lime, and rust.

I cleaned my glass shower screen with the cleaning spray and a cloth so you can see for yourself how effective this citric acid cleaning spray can be – I know I love a good before and after:

before and after cleaning with citric acid

Left – shower screen before cleaning; right – shower screen after cleaning with citric acid spray.  

You can clean all surfaces with citric acid with the exception of stone, marble, and granite.  You’ll want to make a stone-safe cleaning spray for this job, the recipe of which can be found on page 34 of Fresh Clean Home.

Safety First

Whilst Citric Acid is a natural ingredient, it is still a chemical, and the powder can still cause damage and irritation if handled incorrectly.  I prefer to use it in a well-ventilated area – breathing in citric acid can cause respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, and a sore throat.  Citric acid can also irritate your skin and eyes, so take care when handling the powder not to spill it or rub your eyes before washing your hands.

And, as with any cleaning product, homemade or otherwise, always keep both the citric acid, and any homemade cleaning spray, away from curious pets and/or children.