Brown paper packages tied up with string

… or secured with paper parcel tape… these are two of my favourite things.

OK, I know it was only the string that appeared in the song, but I was truly delighted when two parcels arrived through the post yesterday that were wrapped without plastic tape.


Spot the plastic… oh, there isn’t any

The first was from the All Natural Soap Company – I’ve mentioned them before, because they work very diligently to avoid the use of plastic and to produce their soap ethically; for example, they don’t use any palm oil. They use cardboard boxes for posting things out and seal them using paper parcel tape. The individual bars of soap come wrapped in paper or in cardboard boxes and they use biodegradable packing peanuts (made of corn starch, I think) to stop everything rattling about – I always put these in the compost, where they disappear as soon as they get wet. I’m always happy to be able to support businesses who make so much effort. It’s also worth remembering that soap/shampoo bars are much better than liquid soap/shampoo or shower gel because soap does not require water to be transported unnecessarily with it.

The second parcel was sent by my friend Lizzie and she had created a beautiful string-wrapped package. Not only was there no plastic tape, but the brown paper and string can be entirely reused for sending something to someone else. And inside was some rather special fabric, some ribbon and a crochet dishcloth (for Mr Snail to use whilst he continues to seek out the perfect eco-washing up brush). I’ve already got an idea what I’m going to do with the fabric… I just need to find the time.

All washed up

For some time we have been struggling to find suitable, biodegradable washing-up equipment. Mr Snail (who does most of the washing-up) likes to use a brush. Most brushes for this job are plastic and the bristles get flattened very quickly, making them useless. First, I found a recycled plastic version with a replaceable head, but the quality was so poor that the head needed replacing after only a few uses. Then, I was delighted to find a wooden brush with natural plant-fibre bristles and replaceable heads. I bought one, along with spare heads, and we gave it a try. Sadly, the heads seemed to last only a short time too, were a less than ideal shape (round) for getting into all the nooks and crannies and repeatedly fell off the handle. Eventually Mr Snail refused to use them any more and returned to a standard plastic brush. The quest continues to find a washing-up brush that actually delivers all we need: a good shape, durable and made from natural materials.

Mostly, I prefer to wash up using a cloth. Crochet cotton cloths are fine unless you want some abrasion and my old abrasive cloth, which I have had for years but is very worn, is plastic (nylon possibly). I was happy, therefore, that Red Apple Yarn sells textured cotton dishcloth yarn and I just had to give it a go. I decided that a loose mesh was likely to prove most useful, and whipped up a crocheted dish cloth in double quick time. I tested it out this morning* and it does a good job, although is only a bit abrasive (it felt more so when I was working it up). For me this is likely to be a good option; for Mr Snail the quest for the perfect brush continues.


* I washed up because Mr Snail was still in bed recovering from yesterday’s 21-mile sponsored walk.

Completely packaging-free tea

Left: Nilgiri; Right: Yunnan

Tea without packaging – tins refilled in the shop

I continue to enjoy my loose Nilgiri tea – I took my tin to the shop for a refill last week and thus avoided bringing any packaging home. Of course, it doesn’t arrive at the shop without packaging. I’m guessing that they don’t have wooden tea chests round the back from which they refill their own tins that are on display in the shop. No, by buying loose tea and using my own container I am only eliminating one element of the packaging… but still that is one element less. The shop where I buy my tea from put it, by default, into bags that include a layer of plastic (maybe cellophane), a layer of foil and a layer of paper. On the rare occasions when we have bought tea or coffee without taking our own receptacles, we have felt it necessary to dismantle the bags carefully before putting the component parts into the recycling.

The ultimate in avoiding packaging

The ultimate in avoiding packaging… eventually!

In fact, I have not been looking for any other ways of making my tea-buying more ethical, but one was presented to me last Thursday, when my friend Ann gave me a Camelia sinensis plant. That’s right – I’m now the proud owner of a little tea plant. Apparently they like acid soil (less than pH 5) so it should be right at home here in west Wales. Being plants of the Himalayas, tea bushes can survive outdoors in the UK in areas where we don’t have severe frosts. So, in theory I could plant it in the garden. However, I know from experience that many plants drown or rot in our soil over the winter, so my inclination (at least for now) is to keep it in a pot in the limery over the winter and out on the new patio during the summer.

The small bit of research that I’ve done suggests that, if I can get it to thrive, it’s relatively easy to make green tea from the young leaves – you have to steam them and then dry them – so that is something I would like to try out. I’m sure I will never be self-sufficient as regards tea, but it would be nice to be able to grow at least a little of my own.

%d bloggers like this: