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eco friendly guide moving house

eco friendly guide moving house

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What is the first thing that springs to mind if I was to mention moving house?  If you said stress then I’d have to virtually high-five you because the stress that moving house entails is normally the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about any potential house move.

In my adult life, I have personally moved house 17 times (17!) so I am well versed in house moving stresses.  Our last move was the most stressful move to date – the house we were buying remained on the market right up until the point we got the keys, and we didn’t receive the keys until 4:40 pm on moving day.  We ended up moving our stuff out as the buyer of our flat moved their stuff in!  Needless to say, I don’t plan on moving for quite some time!

Stress aside, is there anything else that springs to mind about moving house?  Your first or second thought might not be the environmental impact of moving house, but there are indeed a few of factors to consider the next time you move house:

Declutter Before Packing

If I was to give anyone any moving advice, it is always declutter before even thinking about starting to pack your stuff up.  Getting rid of stuff you don’t need means you need fewer boxes, fewer packaging materials and may mean you need a smaller removals van, saving a whole lot of money. Separating the wheat from the chaff also makes packing and unpacking so much easier, and I’ve found when I take this approach I rarely have that rogue unopened box of junk left over that takes, ahem, a year to get round to opening and dealing with.

Decluttering expert Marie Kondo measures decluttering success by how many bin bags are filled and thrown out.  I take a different approach.  I have many gripes with Marie Kondo, which I could discuss at length, but in the interests of brevity and sticking to the point all I say that there’s so much wastefulness inherent in this type of approach.

Decluttering is not a case of throwing everything in the bin that you no longer need.  In the past (pre-Marie Kondo), I wrote at length on how to declutter sustainably.  Before you reach for a bin bag I’d recommend giving it a read – I offer advice on what you can do with your unwanted goods to help keep them out of landfill and in active use for longer.  If you have worn out or broken items I also offer advice on where you can responsibly dispose of items at the end of their lifespan.

Cardboard Boxes

Once you’ve decluttered, you can move on to the packing stage.  Cardboard boxes are one environmental factor to consider when it comes to moving house.  Many removal companies supply their own brand new boxes and packaging materials at an additional cost to you, and you can also buy boxes and packaging online. While you can easily recycle cardboard boxes after your move, I’ve always felt that it’s a bit of a waste of materials and resources to buy new cardboard just for the sake of moving stuff from one house to another.

To save resources (and a bit of cash) in the past I have always fostered a good relationship with my local shops.  Most shops won’t store cardboard boxes due to it being a fire risk, but what you can do is ask the staff when the delivery day is, and then pop in that day to collect some cardboard boxes before they are sent to recycling.  After speaking to the manager of our local shop  I found out the delivery day was a Wednesday afternoon, so every Wednesday evening for a few weeks I went along and collected as many boxes as I could carry.  This saved us from buying a ton of new cardboard and gave cardboard that was due for recycling a second life before being recycled.  Win-win!

Packaging Materials

Of course, you can’t move your goods with cardboard boxes alone.  Fragile items need some form of protection from knocks and bumps during the moving process.

Whenever I have an upcoming move I ask friends to keep their old newspapers for us, which saves us from buying packaging paper.  I also make a point of saving any packaging paper or bubble wrap that comes into our house prior to the big move, and I also ask my work to save any bubble wrap that comes in on deliveries.

If your work doesn’t get many deliveries, or if you don’t work, then another option to check out is Freecycle.  From what I’ve seen over my years of using Freecycle is that if an item is no longer needed but can be of use to someone then a Freecycler will list it on Freecycle.  I have seen some strange things pop up on Freecycle in my time, so I can assure you that invariably someone will offer a load of bubble wrap or a big bundle of newspaper or packaging paper that they have amassed and need rid of.

If you would rather avoid plastic bubble wrap there are eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap abound – from corrugated cardboard “bubble” wrap to packing peanuts made of corn starch that can be dissolved in water or placed in your composter.

In terms of tape to seal your boxes, something to try instead of conventional packaging tape is eco paper packaging tape.   This tape is made from 100% recycled paper, with a latex-based adhesive that is completely biodegradable.

Consider A Carbon Neutral Removal Company

Now that we’ve covered packing, that last important step is the physical process of moving house. Something I’ll admit I have never previously considered are the carbon emissions associated with moving house, in particular, the carbon emissions generated by moving your possessions.

The next time I find myself moving house (which admittedly I hope isn’t for a long time!), something I will try is Buzzmove.

Buzzmove is an online price comparison site that makes it easy to find quotes for removal services in your local area.  What’s more, Buzzmove is aiming to make removals booked through their site carbon neutral in 2018.  They are doing so by partnering with removal companies who have pledged to plant trees in order to offset the carbon dioxide emissions associated with removals.

Because a tree can absorb up to around 22 kg of carbon dioxide per year – and as much as 907 kg by the time it reaches 40 years of age – Buzzmoze have calculated that planting 2,160 trees this year would offset the total carbon emissions their removal companies generate through using Buzzmove.

In order to plant the trees in a meaningful manner, Buzzmove has paired up with reforestation charity Trees for Life, who are working to restore the Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands – an ancient forest and important wildlife habitat that has been severely deforested and could disappear in a few decades if replanting does not occur.  Although it’s only early in the year, you can check out the Buzzmove grove of trees that they have planted in the Caledonian Forest so far.

At the moment, the campaign is in its infancy, so when you search for a removal company on Buzzmove you can’t see if they are part of the Trees for Life campaign.  After speaking to Buzzmove they say their next step is to display a badge next to the removal companies names so the customer is aware that the removal company is part of the Trees For Life campaign or not.

In order to be featured on this page, and latterly with the badge, the removal company needs to make a commitment to donate to the Trees for Life Buzzmove removals grove, so you can be sure of making a carbon neutral house move.  

Do you have any other eco friendly moving tips?  Do let me know in the comments below!

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11 Surprising Items That Contain Plastic

things that contain plastic

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Despite being a relatively new material, with widespread usage not occurring until the 1960s, plastic is a ubiquitous part of just about every aspect of our daily lives.  But were you aware of just how omnipresent plastic is?  I’ve rounded up 11 surprising household items that contain plastic.

sources of hidden plastics

1. Chewing Gum

It’s hard to believe, but chewing gum is made of plastic.  Manufacturers don’t tend to disclose their ingredients because chewing on plastic doesn’t sound particularly appealing.

The reason they do not need to disclose exact ingredients in their gum bases is that these are considered trade secrets.  Therefore they can use non-specific terms such as “gum base”, making it hard for consumers to know exactly what’s in their chewing gum.  What we do know is that most gum bases contain polyethylene, a plastic that’s used to make plastic bottles, plastic bags, and seal tea bags.  Gum bases also tend to contain polyisobutylene – a rubber that’s used to make the inner tubes of tyres.  Delightful, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this.  Chewing gum was made without plastic up until around the 1960s, at which point it became more economical to use more synthetic ingredients.

From what I have read I believe that all the main gum brands use plastics and rubbers in their gum production, and I haven’t been able to find a single gum that is free from plastic and also comes in plastic-free packaging.  Instead, I found three brands (only available on Amazon) that I believe to be free from plastic but come in plastic packaging: Chicza, Spry, and XyliChew if giving up gum isn’t for you.

2, Clothing

Clothing is the one area that gives me the biggest headache.  All clothing made from man-made fibres, such as microfibre fleeces, polyester, acrylic, and nylons is made from plastic.  And every time you wash those items of clothing, microplastics are released into our waterways, as the fabric sheds in the wash.

There are some solutions – when you buy new clothes try to purchase clothing made from natural fibres over synthetic fibres.  I wouldn’t recommend purging your wardrobe of man-made materials though – donating clothes to charity doesn’t help the microplastic problem as the person buying the clothes will wash and wear the clothes, and I would never advocate binning perfectly good clothes.  Instead, you could wash them in some of the new products coming out, such as Guppyfriend which acts as a microplastic filter until your clothes reach the end of their lifespan.

3. Disposable Coffee Cups

Disposable coffee cups have been in the news a lot recently, so I guess it’s not such a hidden plastic as such, but I thought it is worth bringing to your attention again in case you missed the news.

If you did miss the news, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic, which makes it difficult to recycle them.  A 25p ‘latte levy’ is currently being proposed – a tax on consumers – in a bid to encourage people to use reusable coffee cups.

Looking for an alternative?  My favourite reusable coffee cup is the Stojo cup – a collapsible silicone cup that when flattened down takes us very little room in your bag and pops up in seconds when you’re ready for your cup of coffee.

4. Drink Cans

items that contain plastic

Think a drink can is just made of aluminium?  Well, it turns out that every single drink can on the market is lined with a plastic resin, usually epoxy, to stop the drink contained within corroding the aluminium.  Wired reports in a rather oddly fascinating article that “without that [expoxy] shield, a can of Coke would corrode in three days“.

Roughly 80% of that epoxy is bisphenol-A or BPA for short.  BPA has been associated with a myriad of negative health implications.  And interestingly, that same Wired article I quoted above goes on to note that Frederick vom Saal, a respected biologist who leads research into the effects of BPA on our endocrine systems, won’t buy canned foods or beverages, and won’t allow polycarbonate plastics in his home.

5. Glass Jars with Lids

Think glass jars are a great plastic-free solution?  Well, I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but whilst glass jars themselves don’t contain plastic, the lids of glass jars contain a layer of plastic on them.

Yup, almost all jar lids are lined with plastisol, a PVC product.  The purpose of the plastisol is to produce a vacuum seal and also to help the lid resist corrosion from acidic ingredients.  Good for food storage, not great if you’re looking to give plastic the heave-ho.

Jar lids are recyclable by most Local Authorities, so you can pop them in your recycling bin.  Alternatively, save up your jars and lids to make preserves (I have this book, which I love) to avoid having to recycle the lids (recycling is very resource intensive).  If preserving isn’t your thing then you could save up your jars and list them for free on Freecycle, Gumtree, or similar – they will be snapped up by local jam and chutney makers!

6. Glitter

More surprising news it that glitter is in fact a microplastic.  When will the bad news stop, I ask you?!  As well as glitter for cosmetic and craft purposes, consider glittery greetings cards, present labels and wrapping paper as sources of microplastic.  These products can’t be recycled so why not make 2018 the year you give up glitter?  If living in a world without glitter is too big an ask, fear not, all is not lost!  I have sourced some eco-friendly alternatives to glitter for you.

7. PLAs and Corn-Based Biodegradable Packaging

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a type of plastic made from corn.  While this makes it fossil fuel-free, it’s very much still a plastic.  It’s sold as a greener alternative to conventional plastic, and it’s widely touted to be biodegradable.  But there are some problems.

I’ve written in length about the problems with biodegradable plastics if you fancy a longer read, but if you just need a quick summary then here goes.  PLAs can be difficult to recycle, and many local authorities cannot recycle them.  Biodegradable is not the same as compostable, so you can’t compost them at home.  PLA plastics will only biodegrade in commercial composters where temperatures are consistently high.  Sending them to landfill isn’t a good option either – PLAs won’t break down in landfill, where waste is mummified in anaerobic conditions.

The lesson here is that some so-called green alternatives to plastic sadly aren’t as green as they make out.

8. Produce Stickers

Remembered to take a produce bag to the shop with you to stock up on fruit and veg?  Great work!  Sadly, however, your grocery shopping isn’t as plastic-free as you would have hoped – those stickers stuck to each and every single piece of produce is a plastic.  This can be difficult to avoid, but the good news (finally!) is that retailers are researching replacing plastic labels with laser marking.

9.  Tea Bags

hidden plastics

I’ve written at length about plastic in tea bags, but in case you need a short summary pretty much all tea bags are heat-sealed using polyethylene, a plastic that will not break down in your compost heap.  There are some plastic-free teas available but they all come in plastic packaging.  As an alternative, I’d suggest switching to loose leaf tea.  I’m still on the hunt for a good decaff loose leaf tea so if you come across one do let me know!

10. Tetra Paks

Tetra Paks are the cartons that you commonly buy milk, juice, and chopped tomatoes in.  Many people believe Tetra Paks to be waxed cardboard, but when you look a little deeper the  Tetra Pak website states that cartons are made from wood in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of aluminium and polyethylene plastic. The most common Tetra Pak carton is 75% paper, 20% polyethylene, and 5% aluminium.

While Tetra Pak cartons state that they are recyclable, because of these thin layers of aluminium and plastic, which are difficult to separate, then they are not easily recyclable at every recycling plant.

According to the Tetra Pak website, there is only one dedicated carton recycling facility in the UK, in Halifax, so whether or not your Tetra Paks get recycled or not depends on if your Local Authority sends collected Tetra Paks to this facility in Halifax.  Tetra Pak has not disclosed how many Local Authorities send their Tetra Paks their for recycling, simply stating that “many Local Authorities are already using [the recycling facility] and [we] would like to get many more onboard“.

Looking for an alternative to tetra paks?  Some dairies will deliver milk in glass bottles.  You may have to ring around a few different dairies but there are a few out there.

11. Tin/Aluminium Cans

Much like drinks cans, tin and aluminium cans are lined with plastic.  Indeed, the Independent reported in 2010 that the majority of food cans in the UK have been lined with a plastic coating containing bisphenol A (BPA). The coating prevents acids and other substances from corroding the tin or aluminium of the can, but leaching of BPA into the can’s contents could be a potential health hazard.

Looking for an alternative?  Buy dried pulses instead of tinned pulses, and get into the habit of soaking them overnight before use.  Tricky, I know!

I appreciate all of this information may be a little shocking and perhaps a tad overwhelming.  I’m not sharing this to overwhelm but to help share this information because I believe that the more we know, the more informed choices we can make.  And the more we know, the more we can lobby manufacturers and retailers to provide better packaging solutions and to avoid the use of unnecessary plastic.  For example, here’s a petition you can sign to lobby supermarkets to stop selling raw fruit and vegetables in plastic packaging.

Have you found any more surprising sources of plastic?  Do let me know in the comments below.