Sunday, 24 April 2016

Five easy ways to reduce your waste and the zero waste movement | The Small Desk

The other day a friend told me about a woman who has managed to fit all of her waste from the past three years into one Mason jar. My first reaction was 'no way, she must be sneakily putting her waste somewhere else', but then I watched her Ted talk and saw that she is part of the zero waste movement. This woman is called Lauren Singer and she runs the blog and YouTube channel, Trash is for Tossers. She shares lots of tips and tricks on how to reduce your waste.

One of the major ways that she reduces her waste is by buying from shops that sell products packaging free; she brings canvas bags and Mason jars to the shop to contain the food. However this is not so easy in the UK, especially with convenience stores such as Tesco Extra or Little Waitrose; in some cases even their lemons and limes come in plastic packaging. But the thing I like about Lauren's motto is that she is not judging people for not being completely zero waste, but that people can take small steps towards reducing their waste. I've found it difficult to be 100% zero waste but have made some small changes that I hope will make a big difference.

The zero waste movement was started by Bea Johnson, who runs the blog, Zero Waste Home. I feel that's Bea's way of living is harder to achieve and relies on one person being at home and really managing the household's waste with an iron rod. I even saw an Instagram of her re-stuffing her old pillows the other day... it just made it feel really unachievable.

The rules of the zero waste movement circle around the 5 R's: reuse, recycle, rot, reduce, refuse. Reuse means to buy as much as you can second-hand, recycle (obvious), rot means to compost, reduce just means to reduce your waste and refuse means to refuse to buy or take things that create waste, e.g. a straw in your drink.

I've started small and hope to get better at reducing my waste with time. I realise there are a lot of things that prevent people from being zero waste and one of mine now is that I don't have a garden to myself to even have a compost bin. Anyhow, I thought it might be useful to share five easy ways to reduce your waste. Trust me, these are very easy and simple switches to do, and even someone with no garden, who works five days a week with a long commute can do!

1. Reusable water bottle
This is probably the easiest switch and it makes such a big difference. By refusing to buy plastic water bottles you are making a huge difference. There's a website called 'Ban the Bottle' that has lots of interesting facts about why plastic water bottles are so difficult to get rid of. I bought a reusable plastic one from Lakeland that has a little cup on the top! It's so cute, I love it!

2. Shampoo and conditioner bars, and soap
Another super simple switch is to buy shampoo and conditioner bars. I bought mine both from Lush and I keep them in little plastic (reusable) tubs in my shower. I'm not 100% happy with the feel of my hair after using them, but I want to try out J. R. Liggett's shampoo bar from Amazon that I've heard a lot of good things about. I bought the Montalbano shampoo bar, which I am happy with, and the Plumps conditioner, which I think isn't too great. Also, swap your shower gel for soap! Easy!

3. Reusable carrier bag
I sort of feel like I'm teaching you to suck eggs with this one, but I find it best to have a small foldable reusable bag that I can just carry around with me everywhere, that way I never get caught out with having to buy a carrier bag.

4. Think: what can I recycle
Now this one sounds really easy, and in theory it is, but it is so easy to just chuck something in the bin without thinking, can this be recycled? I do it all the time, but am slowly getting better. For example, sometimes you can recycle some plastics that you might not expect to. It's good to always see if there is a recycle symbol on the packaging.

5. Use lemon and lime
This one is a huge deal for me. I LOVE squash and fruit juice, but most of them come in plastic bottles! Nightmare! To compact this I now have a slice of lemon or lime in water instead. I've actually come to like this a lot and it also makes me feel pretty good in the morning.

I hope you've enjoyed this post, and that it's at least got you thinking. Please do share with me in the comments any tips you've got for reducing your waste! Thanks for reading!


Monday, 18 April 2016

Why I love the NHS | The Small Desk

Recently I had to make a trip to A&E to get the boyf checked out after a fall. He's fine and it's all sorted now, but it made me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS.

I wanted to write this post as a sort of tribute to the NHS and a thank you to all those who work there.

For those of you who don't live in the UK, or don't really know much about the NHS, the National Health Service is the UK's free healthcare service. It was set up on 5th July, 1948 and the first NHS hospital was in Manchester. Those of us that can afford it pay National Insurance per month through our salary and that is what pays for the NHS. You don't have to pay National Insurance to qualify to use the NHS though.

You can walk into a doctor's surgery and get an appointment for free, there is a set price of £8.40 per item for prescriptions and it is free for contraceptives. You can also get immunisations for free and operations. And if you think doctors get paid loads, think again, junior doctors are on a shockingly low starting salary of £22,636.

It is such an incredible service, and the people who work in it really make it. Everyone I have encountered by going to the doctors, hospital or to A&E has been so patient and so kind, they really are an exceptional bunch of people; from the receptionists to the doctors and from the cleaners to the radiologists.

Five times the NHS have helped me or my family:

1. Saved mine and my Mum's lives when I was born
Probably the biggest thing I have to thank the NHS for!

2. Heart bypass for my Granddad
On private healthcare this would have apparently cost £60,000!

3. Took my Dad in an ambulance when he had a fall
The ambulance service and paramedics are a phenomenal service.

4. Helped my Grandma recover from meningitis
The nurses who looked after her were so kind and were rigorous with the regular checks they had to do on her after she had stabilised. 

5. Carried out regular cervical screening tests for women
Thankfully I haven't had any problems from this, but it is amazing that they offer this to all women over 25 every three years and send you reminders without fail.

They also provide the brilliant 111 service that you can ring for free to see if you need to go to hospital or see a doctor.

Basically, if you work for the NHS – thank you, you are amazing.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

March Favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

March 2016 – this year is going so fast! This month has been good, if not a bit scary. The biggest thing that has happened this month is that we have had an offer accepted on a house! It's pretty early days, so it could all still go wrong but it's the furthest we've got with our house hunt. There is so much you learn along the way and so many different emotions that you feel. I've gone from being completely freaked out at the thought of leaving London to being ridiculously excited at the thought of living near a river where I can go rowing whenever I like. I might write a blog post solely devoted to the first time buying process, do let me know if any of you would find that useful. Anyway, on with the favourites...

1. Pub dinner with friends
Early on in the month I went to a beautiful pub on the edge of Wimbledon Common with the boyf and two of our good friends. I indulged in fish and chips and ice cream, and it was good.

2. House offer accepted
As mentioned above! We celebrated by going for dinner at a little restaurant/canteen-style place called Farmstead in Covent Garden.

3. Mother's Day with Dad
This year my Mum was working on Mother's Day, so I celebrated it with my Dad instead. We went to Waitrose and bought loads of tapas-style bits for lunch.

4. Wahaca with an old friend
If you know me at all you will know that my favourite restaurant chain is Wahaca. I think they only have them in London at the moment. It's a Mexican chain started by a previous Masterchef winner. I met up with a friend who I've known since I was born and we had a really good catch up.

5. Going for dinner at my friend's new flat
One of my school friends has just bought a flat in Clapham and we all piled over to hers for dinner one evening. She made a delicious aubergine pasta dish and we had my Mum's homemade lemon cake for dessert.

6. Filler live
On 12th March I felt very ill but had tickets to go to Filler live. Filler is a creative industries podcast that interviews young creatives about their work. I was determined to go, so went down to Tesco and picked up some 7UP and strawberries and forced myself on the tube. I'm so glad I went as I managed to have a quick chat with one of my favourite YouTubers, Estee Lalonde.

7. Barbican, Strange and Familiar 
One Saturday me and the boyf headed to the Barbican to see the new photography exhibition curated by Martin Parr. It was the first weekend it opened and it was absolutely rammed. It was quite good but none of the photography was as good as Martin Parr's!

8. Hair done
I had my hair cut and dyed at my local hairdressers. I only get my hair dyed about once a year, so it had to go in my favourites!

9. Easter lunch
My Mum invited my grandparents around for Easter lunch and made the most delicious meal of sea bream, roast potatoes and a crumble for dessert.

10. Breakdancing 
On Easter Sunday me and my sister headed up to the Southbank Centre to watch a breakdancing competition. We felt thoroughly uncool, but had the best time watching some incredibly talented young people.

How was your March?

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