A pair of girls legs in pyjamas, covered in a pile of colourfully wrapped toilet paper
52 Acts, Eco-Friendly Alternatives

4. Eco-friendly Toilet Paper

I think that one of the best ways to make positive moves for the environment is not to always look for huge changes or grand gestures, but to examine your most everyday items and actions and the impact they can have. Whether it’s in terms of packaging, carbon footprint or materials used, it is always helpful to think about what we do or  have, and how we can improve on it.

Most people can’t organise a mass litter-pick or plant a tree every day but we can all make smarter choices when it comes to buying things.

A lot of people will say that we cannot consume our way to a better environment and I agree. However I also believe that there is wisdom and power in voting with your feet.

There are certain things that we all have to buy: food, clothes, toiletries and so on. If it’s something you ultimately need to purchase and consume, then making the most ethical decision truly does make a difference! You support environmentally-conscious businesses whilst walking your money right away from the ones that would do harm. Being zero waste isn’t about acquiring the right ‘kit’, but about making better choices the more you learn and as opportunities present themselves.

So, having used up my festive Tesco loo roll with gold reindeer printed on it (it was on offer – don’t ask) I decided it was time to examine where my toilet paper could be doing more and think I found a good replacement with Who Gives a Crap.

A box filled with toilet paper wrapped in colourful paper by Who Gives a Crap.

I ordered a great big bulk box of 48, as well as 12 boxes of forest-friendly tissues to boot. I’m sure most of us already know the good points about buying in bulk and the fact that I bought what probably amounts to half a year’s supply did alleviate some of the guilt I felt about having it delivered by courier; as opposed to picking it up on my weekly shop. As these rolls aren’t available in shops however, this is currently the only buying option.

So what made me choose them? I’ll cut it down to three main points.

  • Packaging – The rolls are minimally packaged and entirely plastic free. They come wrapped in colourful, recyclable paper to prevent any water damage or other problems that could strike during transit. From my research, most if not all other eco-friendly brands in the UK still wrap their goods in non-recyclable plastic film. The outer box did have those long, plastic ties wrapped around to secure it but I still feel the packaging overall was kept to a minimum and was almost all recyclable.
  • Source – The rolls themselves are crafted from either recycled paper or bamboo, making them sustainable and forest friendly.
  • Ethics – Aside from the recycled rolls and minimal packaging, the company also donates 50% of their profits to improve sanitation and build toilets in the developing world – where diarrhoea can still be a death sentence for some. They are partnered with WaterAid, a wonderful organisation who provide safe drinking water, hand-washing facilities and better sanitation as well.*

Supporting worthy causes with something I would buy anyway? Yes please!

My first order arrived the other day (to my parents’ house which caused some serious confusion, especially with the company name printed on the side of the box) and I can testify that the loo roll itself is fantastically soft and good quality. Some recycled rolls I have used in the past have had a definite ‘papery’ feel to them, but Who Gives a Crap rolls are as good as the website (and several other bloggers) have said.

A large pryamid of colourful, Who Gives a Crap toilet paper

They are advertised on the site as double-length so I can see them lasting a long time, especially with how many I purchased and the price point is only a little higher than a regular supermarket brand (at 18.8p per 100 sheets to 15.0p). Factoring in the fact that 50% of that money will go to a charitable cause and the toilet paper itself is free from any harmful dyes, chemicals and is forest friendly, I think that additional 3.8p is well worth spending!

Also, you can have a lot of fun stacking and messing about with rolls when they arrive, which of course I did! I’m very happy with my purchase, the speed of the shipping (easily arrived within a week) and the company as a whole. I’m very happy to finally be supporting them!

A Sailor Moon pop figure posed on a mountain of toilet paper

Thanks again for reading, guys! If anybody has any other ideas for everyday ethical swaps, I’d love to hear them. I’ll be in Dublin for the week, so may not have another ’52 Acts’ post, but my friend and I are planning to visit some great Vegan restaurants in the area so maybe we’ll have a post about that instead – we shall see!

~ Lois

*Depending on when you are reading this, if you make a donation to WaterAid before the 31st January 2018 and are a UK National, the government have pledged to match what they raise before that time up to £5 million! I’ve done it – and would love it if you would too!

52 Acts, recycling

3. Visit a Recycling Centre

So in my last blog post I explained about recycling in the home and how to encourage those around you to take part. As I said, many councils in the UK are taking on at least some responsibility – collecting simple, easily recycled materials such as card, tins and glass bottles.

I’m old enough to remember when we only had black bins. Blue bins arrived when I was in primary school and I remember asking wide-eyed: can I put any kind of paper in it? Even paper I’ve drawn on?

That day I filled the blue bin with old drawings and copies of Animals and You (A magazine targeted at young girls which I was pleased to find is still going decades later). I was so excited to feel that I was helping, even if I didn’t quite understand the frightening scale of deforestation just yet.

So I’m not saying that blue bins and boxes are nothing, but I feel that the council in my borough could be doing more to alleviate plastic waste. There is currently no blue bin/box scheme for plastics in Rotherham, which means the burden of recycling it falls to the average person.

There are a handful of recycling centres around, but this means that the council are relying on people to haul their plastics there every fortnight or so and if they choose not to bother and just chuck them in the black bin (which is likely), they are at complete liberty to do so.

I have to say, I’m not happy with that. I’ve sorted the output of waste from my own house, but I think something needs to be done about the plastics problem. I may try contacting my local MP or the council. Possibly even start a petition? I will think about all this another day.

Today however, I did the only thing I could do instantly. I packed up two weeks worth of hard plastics (and a broken alarm clock) and headed to my nearest Recycling Centre.

A Peugeot 206 filled with one large box and one bag of plastic items to be recycled
A treasure trove of nasty plastics to be recycled.

I actually expected a building as opposed to what I found, which was a kind of drive-thru experience. People parked up beside large industrial bins (so large that you needed stairs to reach the top of them) and unloaded their various household rubbish. I saw people bringing out furniture items they had opted to recycle instead of taking them to the tip as well as washing machines and freezers which were stacked about three deep to the left of the lot.

I didn’t see many other people there to recycle plastics which made me feel a little sad, but as I climbed the steps and looked in the bin I saw that there very clearly had been. It was a lake of milk bottles, shampoo bottles, rinsed out food packaging and more. It was in the same breath brilliant and terrifying.

Brilliant, because so many people had brought their plastics in! But terrifying because it was so much and probably only a tiny amount compared to the plastic that would be going direct to landfill. Just because either people didn’t care or didn’t have the resources to drop it off here themselves.

Because that’s what I think it comes down to. Resources.

Aerial view of an industrial recycling site

I’m very lucky. I drive and live within a couple of miles of a recycling centre, but the fact is that many people in Rotherham may not. It’s seen in surrounding cities as a deprived area but that shouldn’t matter. Plastic recycling should be accessible to everybody. In fact, in places where people are less likely to drive and less able to reach the centres, it should be made even easier!

I’ve looked into it. Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield all accept plastic bottles into their regular blue bin schemes. So why not Rotherham?

In the enormous industrial bin, I saw thousands plastic milk and pop bottles. I actually tried to take a photo for this post but was asked to delete it by an employee at the centre (which is fair enough – a lot of council sites don’t allow photography). According to statistics, almost half of all plastic bottles used in the UK go directly to landfill – amounting to about 16,000,000 per day. If making recycling more accessible and simpler would cut down on that number, it is something that all UK councils must do!

Integrating plastic bottles into the blue bin system nationwide rather than in just a handful of communities would be a start. As I said in my last post, if recycling a bottle is just as easy as throwing it away, people are one hundred percent more likely to do it.

So for one thing, I dropped off all the plastics from my household, but I think this year I’m going to turn my attention to getting plastic bottles onto Rotherham’s recycling agenda. I’m not sure how I’ll do it yet, but any suggestions would be more than welcome!

Thanks guys, and have a good one!

~ Lois

52 Acts, recycling

2. Recycling at Home

Perhaps this is obvious, but it is so vital. One of the biggest ways in which we are damaging our planet, wildlife and landscapes is unnecessary waste but and how irresponsibly we’re disposing of it.

Like that old myth that Native Alaskans have over 100 words for snow, we have so many ways of referring to our rubbish – complete with the tiny variations in meaning.

Trash. Garbage. Litter. Fly-tipping. Refuse. Detritus. Debris. Junk. Plain old crap – it comes down to the same thing and the majority of it is just good old British household waste! God save the Queen!

An industrial rubbish bin, overflowing with black bags and other refuse.

Issues of waste and plastic packaging have actually been raised in parliament recently and because of programmes such as Blue Planet 2, people in the UK and beyond are certainly sitting up and taking notice.

A lot of city councils are trying to step up. Blue bins, bags and boxes are provided for paper, card, glass bottles and tins and are collected fortnightly so that the entire burden of recycling is taken off regular people and become’s part of our joint responsibility. Councils and local government getting involved is a very good sign – though there is still much more that can be done.

Although we all need to look at how we can reduce our personal waste, I would like to speak about how handling the waste we produce and trying to keep it out of landfill – as well as our streets, parks and beaches – can help.

Recycling at Home

Having just moved into a shared house, I was shocked to discover that to the knowledge of my housemates who were already living there, they had never had either a blue box or bag. They had to rely on makeshift receptacles which the binmen often refused to take. It put them in an impossible situation where they had recycling piling up but no way of getting rid of it. And if it was placed in the regular black bin, then that wouldn’t be collected either!

It seemed a little inflexible to me, if the recycling was clearly out on the right day and marked, but I got in contact with Rotherham council and although there is normally a charge for replacement bins, I explained that we were short-term tenants and had never even had an initial box to lose. On our next collection day we were provided with two blue boxes and two blue bags.

Photo of card rubbish piled up beside outside bins overflowing with rubbish beside an After photo where the bins are tidy and recycling boxes have been introduced

So that was one obstacle overcome. We had the boxes, but I was faced with another situation. It had been so long since any recycling had been sorted in the house, my housemates didn’t understand the system and weren’t aware of what items can and cannot be recycled. And to be honest, I got the feeling that on some level they might be resenting the change – having to learn all this extra stuff and which bins were to go out on what day and with which things inside them. I felt a little resistance which brings me onto the second part of this post.

Getting those around you to recycle

This is where communication comes into things and before I say anything, I’d like to point out that it is no use getting up on your high horse and shaming people who don’t recycle. Even if you feel very strongly (as I do) that it is the right and responsible thing to do, you cannot change other people’s behaviour by harassing at them. I understand how personal it can feel when people don’t share your convictions, but alienating yourself from those you live with will only create an unpleasant situation for you all.

My plan for approaching situations like these is three-fold:

  • Lead by example – When people see you doing something different, they are often curious about it and they may actually initiate a conversation around recycling. When this happens, explain very nonchalantly why you are putting glass bottles to one side or forgoing using the office coffee pods. Who knows – they might find themselves picking up the habit or choosing to look into environmentalism of their own accord!
  • Suggest and inform – For this one, a casual tone is once again key. If you see somebody about to throw something away, mention that they could put it in the recycling bin or for slightly more difficult items like batteries or energy-saving light-bulbs, say that you know a place that accepts them and would be happy to take it on your next trip. People rarely turn you down if you’re offering to do the legwork for them and to be honest, very few people are actively against recycling though sadly not everybody follows through and does it.
  • Provide the right tools – Another nice, subtle way to try and encourage people to recycle is to make it easy for them. A mini-compost bin on the counter for them to toss their veg peelings in, dedicated bins for plastic, paper and card – if recycling is just as easy (or easier!) than throwing what they’re holding away then they are 100% more likely to do it. Set them up for success and equip your home with the tools that lead to the most positive, eco-friendly outcome!  

Comparison photo of messy bin with lots of recycling stacked up beside it, to clean bin with dedicated recycling bags and no mess around it.

I have a lot more I could say on the subject of trying to live green when those around you aren’t at all interested, but that’s all from me for this week! I was pleased to revolutionise the way my household was recycling and would love to hear stories from those who have done the same!

Thanks guys, and happy recycling!

~ Lois

Photo credits:

Featured  Photo by Lacey Williams on Unsplash

Large Bin Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

52 Acts, Eco-Friendly Alternatives

1. Christmas Gift Wrapping

Hello everyone, and welcome to 52 Acts of Environmentalism!

I know the festive period is more or less over but I thought I’d do my first post about my Christmas wrapping routine, as it’s one of the main things I switched up this year to be more eco-friendly.

Standard wrapping paper is probably one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can think of. Unless otherwise stated, the majority of it is plastic-coated, plastic-based or has added embellishments such as foil or glitter which means it cannot be recycled.  Since it’s meant to be ultimately disposable and it’s only real function is to cover gifts, I don’t see the logic in using materials that are going to hang about in landfill for years upon years.

Although I like the idea of wrapping paper, if there were an alien species that landed on earth around Christmas time, (which sounds like a plausible Doctor Who special) how would we explain it? No big deal – we just take a couple of hours each year concealing what we’ve bought, to place it under a tree for a while before Cadbury-selection-box addled children tear into it like angry seagulls.

It’s a crazy tradition, but I really do like it! I like it less however when I think how much unsustainable wrapping paper is being used every year – and that the paper from last year is probably still sat in a landfill somewhere, not biodegrading.

Supposedly, each year we jovial Brits will throw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper. Consider for a moment that the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats (the two extreme points of Mainland Britain) is 874 miles. We could arguably paper the road between them almost 260 times.

I know that in my household, my family will normally produce about two bin-bags worth of crumpled up, used wrapping paper. Times that by every household in Britain and you can see we have a real problem on our hands. Here is how I tried to make a small difference:

My Recyclable Gift Wrapping Routine

Here is a list of the swaps I made that meant that the gift I gave could be unwrapped and the used paper, tape, decorations and tags could go straight into our blue bin!

  • Brown Paper – Remember how Julie Andrews bigged up brown paper packages in The Sound of Music? Well now, it’s my go-to for gift wrapping! Brown paper is available from any office supply shop or post office and is much cheaper than your typical flamboyant Christmas wrapping paper. I got an enormous industrial roll which should last me a few years at least for a little over a tenner. Not only is it recyclable, but it can be composted too and gives your presents a stylish, minimalist look – especially when paired with some simple red and white string!

A candle on brown wrapping paper with scissors and washi tape rolls around.

  • Washi Tape – As pictured above, you can get several varieties of festive washi tape around Christmas and as it is paper-based, it’s recyclable too! No more picking sellotape off your paper before you can recycle it. But watch out when you’re getting it off the roll – it can tear fairly easily!

An origami bow placed on a brown paper-wrapped present with washi tape ribbon

  • Embellishments – Brown paper is great but on it’s own, is not necessarily the most Christmassy!  Paper gift tags and rough hewn string are again, fully biodegradable and can be composted if you have a bin. This was an easy one but in terms of package decorations, the market is saturated with nasty plastic ribbons of all shapes and sizes. I had a think and busted out my old-school origami skills to make some handmade paper bows!

Group of people having made a selection of festive origami bows

They look a little daunting but are fairly easy to master. I even taught my whole family to do it (with varying degrees of success) which made for a great Christmas Eve activity. And who knows, maybe even a new tradition?

Other Alternatives to Standard Wrapping Paper

  • Reusable Gift Bags – Whether cloth or sturdy paper, you can continue using these for years and they are not dissimilar to traditional holiday items like Christmas stockings. Perhaps there is less unwrapping involved but you can pair it with brown paper wrapping or even newspapers which would have gone in the recycling anyway.
  • Cloth wraps / scarves – Some shops such as Lush have introduced these for wrapping up soap and other gift items. You can wrap up gifts quite neatly with reusable scarves or bolts of soft fabric which can then be kept and used next year. They also take up less space than the three unravelling rolls of wrapping paper that you’ll cram under the stairs!

Whatever you choose to do next year, I hope we can all spare a thought for unnecessary waste and what we can do to cut it down. A lot of these are very simple swaps, after all!

It seems pretty daft to wish you a Merry Christmas for just under eleven months time, so instead I will wish you all a happy new year and a splendid 2018!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about me or about this blog, feel free to check out my About page!

(Featured Image Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)