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February 13, 2020

Montessori Living: What it is and How we're doing it

I don't post a great deal about being a parent on here because wow well, it's a ride. As a first time mother, I'm very much just muddling along and just taking each day as it comes and let's be real - everyone likes to try and dish out unsolicited parenting advice! This has made me a little reluctant to share what we're doing as a new family because I have zero tolerance for others telling me how to parent (and I would hope if I ever tried to do the same with others that they would also shoot me down and tell me to stop!).

That being said however, there is a "philosophy" that I've grown very involved in and have been practicing at home that I want to share more of on both this blog and my Instagram because at the end of the day, it's part of my lifestyle and I found online resources *so* beneficial and educational when I first became interested in the Montessori lifestyle.

So I figured to kick-start discussing Montessori living here on NB, the best place to start was explaining briefly what it is, how we've introduced to our home so far, and also our plans for the future. This is not me saying we have this parenting thing on lock-down and that there's a right or wrong way to parent. The whole role and job of a parent is completely subjective and has to work for you and your child, family, lifestyle, home etc. This is simply me sharing what we're doing because I find it really interesting and I'm loving learning more and more as my baby gets older!

I also wanted to explain as best I can what Montessori theory actually involves as it seems to be becoming a trendy thing on Instagram in terms of the physical aspects (such as aesthetically pleasing, almost minimalist toys) but, it's so much more beyond that - that aspect of it is the least important part by a long stretch!

What is Montessori?
What started as an educational method in schools thanks to research by Maria Montessori in the 20th century, Montessori learning has now seeped into homes and has become a lifestyle and parenting technique also. Maria Montessori was the first female Italian doctor and she believed that a human infant is born incomplete and that they themselves need to finish their own formation. This construction of ones own self lasts from birth to adulthood (24 years old to be exact) as she believed that we need to construct our own brains with guidance until we reach maturity at the age of 24. From her research and observing children, she designed a school theory based on appealing to children's nature rather than fighting it.

She found that children learned well through moving and experiencing their learning rather than sitting listening to a teacher. She believed that children need a level of flexibility that helps them thrive rather than inhibits them. We all learn and develop our intelligence through our five senses and especially for children, the link between the hand and the brain is vital to this learning as it's how all babies develop in their early years (think about babies learning to hold rattles, pick up food, hold cups, then learning to write as they grow older). By giving children this zone of flexibility with their learning, you are helping them gain independence from a young age and supporting them to shape their own selves and also gives them the opportunity to develop self evaluation which is such a beneficial personal skill for anyone (especially us adults!).

As you're trying to create this air of independence and practicality for a child, a Montessori home ideally has child-sized furniture so your child can do as much as they can for themselves (from preparing their own food to eating at the table, putting themselves to bed etc.) and also presents toys and activities that are the right level of "challenging" for their developmental stage.

The role of the parent is much the same as a teacher in a Montessori school: you are more of an overseer or a guide than you are someone who intervenes. You allow your child freedom within boundaries you've set and help them flourish in their own way by objectively observing and supporting their preferences and opinions without interjecting or overshadowing them with your own. For example, in a Montessori school, a teacher may let a child choose between working on languages or maths - they have those two options to choose between - giving them some freedom and flexibility but, it is still within boundaries. That child then may have the option to work at a desk and chair or sit on the floor. Again, it's all about choice and basically, going with your child's flow!

How we're doing it at home
When I first became interested in the Montessori method, Teddy was already one month old and I worried it was too late to put a lot of it in place but, you really can start implementing it whenever. The more I read about it, the more I realised that the majority of it were things that Matt and I were already naturally doing as parents so it seemed like a positive thing to further explore when it aligned well with our "parenting style" already.

As Teddy is currently only 6 months old, a lot of elements of Montessori aren't applicable yet (such as the child-sized furniture and the taking part in practical activities) but, there's a lot we have already been doing with him since he was a one month old. One of the best things we've done thus far - that isn't strictly Montessori at all and is something I think all parents encourage and do naturally! - is to develop his language.

I talk to Teddy all day and about everything. I tell him what our daily plans and to-do list are each morning, I tell him I'm now applying his moisturiser for his eczema, I explain that that bus that drove past the window we're looking out of is taking people to work or college or school... It may sound so incredibly obvious and something we all do as it is but, by talking to your baby you're not only developing their language skills and their understanding of different sounds but also preparing them for practical life once they're a little bit older. Singing and reading aloud to him is something we also do and the one thing I will always stress to other parents is that babies are never too young to read!

We have also used various toys that are suited to Teddy's needs and next level of challenge based on observing what he can and can't do. From birth to 6 months, so so much changes and develops in a baby and we've wanted to encourage and support those changes as much as possible. For example, once he started developing his ability to grasp things, we ensured he had toys that were the right size and different shapes to help train this skill and help him enjoy playing but also meet some level of challenge by having to work out how to hold different shapes and sizes of toys/rattles.

A big part of the Montessori method is to provide children with toys and activities which don't do the entertaining for them - they have to entertain themselves. Teddy doesn't have any electronic toys with flashing lights, screens etc. (unless it's sensory play related) purely because he doesn't need them. Again, children having these is no problem but, we don't have them to try and encourage him to concentrate on an activity for a longer time. He only ever has the choice of 3 or 4 toys at any given time to not overwhelm him and also to encourage this ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. This has resulted in him being happy to play independently for extended periods even as a young baby and is helping him master certain skills.

Positive discipline is central to the Montessori method in the sense that the relationship between parent and child is one based on respect and a "we are a team" mentality. Obviously Teddy is still very young for most aspects of discipline but, simple things like if I'm speaking to Matt and Teddy starts whining, I will turn to him and say "Mammy is talking to Daddy right now. You can talk to me in a minute". By doing this, he has already started to understand how conversations work and that you need to remain quiet to let the other person speak and vice versa. Even at 6 months, he is starting to understanding what interrupting is and how it hinders a conversation rather than helps it develop.

As he has started baby-led weaning, if he starts playing with his food - not in an investigative way but more of a just throwing it around way! - I will say "You must be finished with your dinner because you're playing with it now so I will tidy it away" and I can then gauge by response whether or not he has actually finished. These small things will help just create routine and understanding for him as a toddler as he will be used to these small expectations already.

Lastly, over the past month I have started to give Teddy choices. Only small and he probably has no rhyme or reason behind them but, every morning when he gets dressed, I present him with two tops and say "Which one? The grey stripy one? Or the beige one with the bears on it?" or "Green socks or brown socks?". Some people might think it's silly to allow a 6 month old to choose things in this way but, I want him to feel he has a choice once that independence and desire to dress himself etc. kicks in. This way means he's set up to feel that he always can have freedom to choose, within the boundaries laid out for him.

Of course there are other small things that we are doing day-to-day to help build up to when he is a toddler and a lot of the method really comes into play but, for now, we're really happy with how the Montessori method slots into our lifestyle and "parenting style". I will be sharing more about Teddy's toys, developmental stages, and how his Montessori nursery is decorated/laid out so if you're interested in finding out more, keep your eyes peeled for those posts soon!

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February 11, 2020

Low Waste Eco-Friendly Transitioning Tips: Beauty & Health

Make better packaging choices
Something that I'm personally still working on is switching out all the products I use that come in plastic for ones that come in cardboard/paper, metal, glass, or even zero packaging at all! It can be tough to change products, especially if you have certain favourites but, if you can make some changes to your everyday products, that can hugely minimise your plastic waste. Even if plastic packaging claims to be recyclable, it can only be recycled a certain amount of times and each time it is, the quality of it decreases.

There's some fab brands out there who not only have recyclable packaging but compostable packaging too so branch out a little and experiment - this is an area I'm making big changes in this year too!

Bars bars bars
An easy swap to make is to opt for shampoo bars, conditioners, and simple bars of soap instead of liquid body washes. Although there are brands out there who sell liquid shampoo etc. in aluminium packaging, if you want to go as zero waste as possible, buying bars is the way to do it. Places like Lush sell them "naked" so they have no packaging at all and many brands in the likes of Superdrug, Boots, and other drugstores sell soap in cardboard packaging which of course, is much easier to recycle!

To hell with buying - make your own!
Want to try and be even more green and low waste with your beauty choices? Simply try making them yourself! From hair masks and face masks to lipstick and mascara - there are DIY recipes for pretty much everything that usually uses things that you'll have in your kitchen cupboards or fridge already. I'll be sharing some of my favourite DIY recipes soon but, have a google and experiment! (check out this post for now if you'd like a little DIY face mask inspo).

Get rid of those single use items
One of the most popular swaps is to get rid of your single-use cotton pads/rounds and replace them with reusable ones. You can get ones made from cotton, bamboo, and more or you could simply make your own! Think about your toothpaste, dental floss, ear cotton buds etc. - all of them have eco-friendly/low waste options which you can switch to.

Bulk buy at refill stores
If you have a local refill store or refill section in a supermarket, make good use of it! A lot of refill stores are happy for you to use your own empty bottles and containers so you are reusing and repurposing them instead of purchasing new ones that ultimately, may not get recycled properly. Some specific brands such as Faith in Nature have refill spots in stores too so definitely use them if they're an option for you!

There's nothing wrong with a good ol' flannel or rag for your face
Remember when I mentioned reusable cotton pads earlier? Yeah well you don't need to invest in those if you don't usually reach for normal cotton pads and/or don't have the money. A simple flannel which you may already have at home will more than do! We seem to overlook regular facecloths nowadays yet they're just as effective for removing makeup, cleansing and exfoliating skin, and can even be used for applying toner. If you want to make your own cotton pads, you could always just cut a facecloth up into squares and job done. Not got a flannel? If you've got old fabric from a t-shirt could absolutely be cut up and used as some facecloths instead.

Take shorter showers and don't have baths
It's as simple as that. If you are showering, see if your shower has an eco setting and use it! Taking a bath should be obvious as to how wasteful it is so if they're not something you're particularly protective over doing regularly, simply don't have them. If you do, try to use more natural products that don't have chemicals included as they are being washed down your plughole and eventually make their way into our oceans. If you do bathe, use the water afterwards to flush your toilet!

Replace your sponges and loofahs
When your current sponges or loofahs - whatever it may be that you use to cleanse your body - are worn out and ready to throw out, replace them with biodegradable alternatives. You can get wooden scrubbers with natural bristles, natural sponges that can be composted, or even a soap pouch that doubles up as a body exfoliator.

Get eco with your teeth!
We're no stranger to bamboo toothbrushes nowadays, but try using low waste packaging options for toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental floss! There's lots of brands out there now who sell tooth tablets and traditional squeezy toothpaste but they come in glass or metal packaging that can be recycled easier, mouthwash brands that use metal bottles, and brands selling biodegradable, natural, and/or compostable dental floss in recyclable packaging too.

If you want to delve even further into a more eco-friendly and low waste dental routine, you can try making your own toothpaste and mouthwash too.

If brands have recycle schemes - use them!
Brands like Lush have recycle schemes from their products pots that will result in you not only recycling but, you get the added perk of getting a free product (5 pots = 1 free face mask). The Body Shop also has a fab recycle scheme that not many people know about - I only recently found out myself! - in which you can recycle any cosmetic brands packaging via them so it actually is properly recycled. These sort of schemes are trying to do good but they need us to actually work and be successful. Supporting schemes like these help show big corporations that we actually want opportunities like this and will help wake up other brands to jump on the bandwagon.

Periods, pees, and sprays
A big movement over the past couple of years has been focused on period waste and how we can reduce it. Not only are sanitary products often not biodegradable, they can also be toxic and not use natural fibres so they're not good for our bodies. I wrote a mammoth post on all things periods whether its cups, pads, panties, or tampons and making the changes to something more eco-friendly is easier than you think.

With that being said, another area you can make a better swap is your toilet roll. Obviously we all know toilet roll tends to come packaged in plastic but often the actual toilet roll itself isn't as green as you might think. Brands like Who Gives a Crap deliver loo roll straight to your door and are completely plastic free but, if they're not an option for you, consider using your local supermarkets "recycled" loo roll range (Sainsburys have a good one). It might still come in plastic wrap but, it's a step in the right direction.

I've also mentioned sprays here and although many things in spray canisters are metal, they're bad for the o-zone layer. Aerosol deodorants, hairspray, dry shampoo sprays... the list goes on. Try and find alternatives that come in greener packaging and don't contribute to your carbon footprint.

Glass vitamins
The last little pointer I have here is to see if you can swap out your supplements and vitamins for those in glass packaging. This one can be tricky and it can depend on what you need to buy and what is readily available to you but, if you can get something such as your B12 or Vitamin D in a glass bottle instead - try and make that swap!

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January 30, 2020

#10x10 Wardrobe Challenge: January

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that over January I have completed my first 10x10 challenge on there! The idea of the 10x10 challenge is to pick 10 clothing items that you have to make 10 outfits from, over 10 consecutive days. I spread my 10x10 over the duration of the month however (just to break up my feed a bit!) but I found it so great for giving myself a boost with my wardrobe as it helped me think outside the box and appreciate that I have more than enough clothes - I just need to be more creative with how I wear them.

I will be completing a 10x10 every month this year as I feel I got a lot out of this one and want to hopefully inspire others to shop their wardrobes first before they go buying more items they don't need! This time around, I really tried to challenge myself as much as possible by including shoes and bags in the selection process. Usually, accessories - including bags - are separate items that are like add-ons to the base of the outfit but this time around to kick things off, I wanted to prove to myself and others that you really can get a lot out your items if you know how to style them together and use pieces that are versatile. So here's what my January 10x10 consisted of:

- One long sleeve white cotton top: old
- Two jumpers - one thinner grey knit, one chunky cream knit: local charity shop (grey), eBay (cream)
- One gingham long sleeve shift dress: Vinted
- One pair of black high waisted straight leg jeans: H&M Conscious
- One leopard print slip midi skirt: eBay
- Hiking lace up black boots: Depop
- Heeled black boots: Depop
- Black bumbag: The British Heart Foundation
- Cream bag: Depop

Additional accessories:
- Black 40 denier tights: Swedish Stockings
- Grey and beige ribbed beanie hats: old old old!
- Black fedora and grey/dark blue fedora: super old

By adding in the shoes and bags, it made it much harder to make each outfit look different as it limited choices. However, I feel I did a pretty good job! One thing I would say about this challenge is that it made me appreciate that I have quite a neutral wardrobe as it makes it so much easier to mix and match. If I buy any new items this year, I will be making sure I can wear whatever it is in a multitude of ways and that it goes with plenty items I already own.

For February, I won't be so hard on my choices and will opt to still include shoes but bags will be added accessories so I can have a little more variety!

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January 25, 2020

Book Club No.21

Can you believe the last Book Club post was back in June 2019?! I know, I'm horrified too but, I can assure you, I have been reading still since then albeit sporadically. Now that it's January 2020, I've set myself a new Goodreads Reading Challenge for the year and I'm hoping I can actually accomplish it this time around!

As I mentioned earlier, I did read a few books since my last Book Club review so here's two works of fiction that I got stuck into:

The Book of Lost Things | by John Connolly
This one was recommended by Matt after he enjoyed reading it and thought I would too. It follows a 12-year-old boy called David who is dealing with his mother's death and his father moving on from it. He finds solace in books and enjoys reading but finds that his books have started to whisper to him when he's alone. His reality goes from one bad thing to another and soon, the fantasy worlds he has been reading about begin to seep into his reality as an escape - an escape which sucks him into a world involving heroes, monsters, and the fight between them.

I quite enjoyed this book. The characters are all diverse and bring something to the story, no matter how small of a part they play. I found that they translated to the reader really well and within a few lines, you could get the measure of each character and their personality. The story was unpredictable but used folklore and fairytale tropes we're all used to so there was an air of familiarity running throughout the pages. Although there were familiar elements, Connolly used them in a fairly unique way so you were never too sure about how the story was going to develop. I found it very easy to think of how characters looked, sounded, and acted without Connolly giving the reader too much description which, if you've read any of my previous Book Club reviews, you will know I hate over-descriptive books that force you to see things a certain way.

If you're a fan of traditional fairytales or folklore such as The Brother's Grimm and have a penchant for the particularly dark stories, The Book of Lost Things will tick all the boxes for you. Not only does it meet the fictional storytelling well, it also leaves you feeling attached to the characters, particularly David, and you feel him grow and change as the events shape him and help him mature.
Pick up a copy of The Book of Lost Things here

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | by Mark Haddon
In 2019, I decided to reread this. I'm not entirely sure what sparked the desire to reread it, having previously dissected it for English classes and reading it in my free time but, I'm pleased I picked it back up. I seem to have a love hate relationship with Mark Haddon work and I'll either really enjoy a book of his or I won't. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a love story for me as a reader though; I've really enjoyed it every single time I've read it.

The book follows a 15-year-old boy called Christopher. Christopher is on the Autistic Spectrum and finds safety and familiarity in logic, numbers, patterns, and his routines that he has set in place. His world and comforts get turned completely on their head when his neighbours dog, Wellington, is murdered. Inspired by his favourite detective, Sherlock Holmes, Christopher decides to investigate the murder and everything just snowballs along in his journey. The book is written from Christopher's perspective and it translates really well. Working with young people who have a range of learning needs, I can see a lot of truth in how Haddon writes Christopher's view on things. The story covers some difficult situations and topics but with Christopher's outlook, they come across almost lighthearted and funny at times which makes it very easy reading and there's a level of uncertainty over what's going to happen next.

Another aspect I really love is that Haddon includes diagrams and sketches occasionally throughout the pages which relate to something Christopher is talking about. It not only helps the reader understand something that doesn't translate well just through words but, it also helps accentuate how Christopher thinks and that only makes the story feel all that more real and believable.
If you'd like to pick up a copy, you can find one here

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January 12, 2020

Low Waste Eco-friendly Transitioning Tips: At Home

Being more environmentally conscious seemed to gain traction and popularity with reusable straws, tote bags, and reusable coffee cups and bottles and whilst there's definitely some ways in which you can be more eco-friendly on the go, there's *so* many ways you can be more low waste at home that will positively impact the environment too. Over the past few months, I've been sharing ways in which you can be more low waste and eco-friendly and trying my best to demonstrate just how easy it can be to make some changes to your everyday life. So here's some ways you can do just that but this time, we're focusing on what you can switch-up at home:

Reusable cloths and old fabrics:
Something that I'm sure a lot of us do already is use cloths that we wash and use again when doing various bits of housework. Cloths are cheap and obviously better for the environment as you can use them until they literally fall apart. I'm sure I don't really need to mention it here but, using cleaning wipes for example can be so detrimental to the environment and let's be honest - they're not particularly cost-effective either as they are single use items. If you're running low on cloths and don't want to/can't buy any new ones, cutting up old fabrics such as old t-shirts are always a great way to repurpose some items for a little longer (and FYI, t-shirt rags are often pretty darn good for dusting cloths - particularly on mirrors!).

I personally have also enjoyed using old socks which have holes in as dusting or cleaning mitts or old flannels/muslin cloths which are too old and grubby to continue to use for skincare!

If you typically use paper towels or kitchen roll often, either try using rags or fabric cloths instead or try out bamboo kitchen roll. It can be used multiple times before it needs to be thrown away and even then, it will degrade much faster than the "paper" alternatives we're all familiar with.

Get to grips with your local recycling:
Obviously recycling is a step to a more eco-friendly lifestyle but, it's important that you're clear on how to actually recycle. Check out your local council's website to get to grips with how your local area recycles as not each county or even each town recycles in the same way (for example, I used to live in Winchester and glass wasn't collected. I moved 10 minutes away to a neighbouring town and it is now recycled separately to other recycling).

Not only is it just handy to know your local recycling guidelines, it's also great to just educate yourself on recycling in general. Many items that you'd assume can be recycled (such as paper straws, sticky notes, and some receipts just to name a few) can't actually be recycled due to contamination or parts of them being difficult to break down. Knowing this sort of thing might help you with making decisions such as refusing a paper copy of receipt on your next in-store purchase but will also make your recycling journey more streamline and effective.

Use storage you already have:
I talked about how handy glass jars can be in a previous post so naturally, I'm going to talk about them again here! Whether it's an old jam jar or a passata jar, keeping them once they've been used up can help you reduce how much single-use or non-eco-friendly items you use. A jar is just as good as keeping half an avocado fresh as cling film, it just means it can be washed out and used time and time again without negatively impacting the planet.

Almost every household has some tupperware floating around and my oh my, is it a godsend. People sometimes make the mistake of getting rid of things like tupperware when they switch to being more eco-friendly because it's often made from plastic but please don't get rid of what you already have - that goes against the whole idea of being more zero waste! Instead just put it to good use and reap the benefits; the planet will thank you too!

Invest in other short-term food storage:
If you're someone who needs to use things like food bags or currently relies on cling film a great deal, buying beeswax wraps can be a more eco-friendly option for you as can resusable food bags. If buying new items such as these are out of the question for you, simply washing out generic "single-use" food bags to try and get as many uses out of them as possible is also just a small way you can make less of an impact.

Reduce your food waste:
A biggie that we can all try to implement (myself included) is trying to produce less food waste. It's easy to go food shopping and over buy or be sucked into deals such as a huge sack of potatoes being the same price as the two individual potatoes you actually intended to buy and then those excess items sit in our cupboards, fridges, and freezers, taking up space and often going off and rotting before we get a chance to use them. I talked about this in a lot more detail here, but meal planning, only buying what you need, and composting if you can can all be ways to be more low waste.

Composting is a great free and easy option if you have a garden you like to care for but don't fret if you don't - you can always ask your local council for a composting bin if your area supplies them or you can keep it in a air-tight container in your freezer and take it to a local drop-off bin if you have one!

Buy biodegradable options instead:
Whether it's bamboo toothbrushes or wooden scrubbers for your dishes, there's plenty of biodegradable options out there to replace plastic items that you usually need to repurchase over time. I've been a huge advocate of bamboo toothbrushes for some time but, after learning about how damaging sponges can be in terms of micro plastics, switching to a biodegradable cleaning pad, brush, or dish loofa is one of my next swaps to make.

Make your own cleaning products:
Whilst we're on the topic of cleaning, many cleaners we typically buy are harmful to the environment due to their plastic packaging and the chemicals in them. If you're a regular Northern Blood reader, you will already know how much I support making your own cleaning products - it's much easier than you think as you only need a few items which can be bought in bulk. By making your own cleaners, you're not only saving money, but you're also using eco-friendly products that don't have harsh chemicals in. That's a win win for the ocean but also for your lungs and skin!

If DIY-ing your own cleaning agents isn't your cup of tea, making more conscious choices when shopping for your cleaning products is also a step in the right direction. Get out of the habit of thinking you need a million different cleaners because you simply don't. Do some research on which brands are things like cruelty free, vegan, and chemical-free. Buy from the brands who offer refill options either in store or allow you to bulk buy and refill bottles you've already purchased from them. Think about everything from your washing up liquid dish soap to your laundry detergent. It's an area we can often overlook due to the necessity of these items but even a small change can make all the difference.

Buy organic and sustainable materials & take care of what you own:
I've talked in detail about how good it is to buy natural fibres instead of synthetic fibres when it comes to fashion but, why stop there? Think about things like blankets, your bedding, cushion covers... all of these items will no doubt end up in your washing machine one day and when they do, are they going to release micro plastics into the water that end up in the ocean? Possibly - especially those exclusively synthetic materials. When you're buying items around the home in future, consider what they're made of before purchasing, but if you already own a lot of synthetic materials - don't fret! Buying a guppy friend which catches the micro plastics in your laundry can be a life saver.

Another point that I've mentioned before in relation to fashion that I just want to mention again here to really drive the message home is to take care of what you already own. If your items have label instructions for washing or storage actually pay attention to them and follow them! This will mean you will get the most out of your items and therefore have to replace them less and potentially, not at all. This will help you buy less and use things for longer which is one of the simplest ways you can be more low waste.

Repair what you can and shop secondhand:
If there's a tear in something - patch it up. If there's a scratch on a table - don't just get rid of it; research if you can fix it or disguise it somehow. We have all been brought up in a "just buy a new one" culture when things aren't quite perfect and it's just so unnecessary. Not only does having a more "I'll try to fix it" approach mean you get the most out of items ranging from your clothing to a wardrobe to an electronic device, it also means you can build up your own skill set because you might have to learn something new. This can help you salvage things in the future and save you money too!

As for buying secondhand, y'all know that I'm an advocate of that in every capacity but, using things like Facebook Marketplace, buy and sell pages, Gumtree etc. are a great way to locally source secondhand furniture, electronics, equipment, tools etc. that others no longer need or want and that you do. It's cheaper, helps out others, and stops you directly buying from the source.

Go green with your energy:
The last pointer I'm going to mention here (that will also save you some dosh), is to switch to a green or eco-friendly energy provider. This is something we only recently did but my oh my, do I feel better for it. I'm not going to go into too much detail here about green energy providers - namely because I'm going to talk about them in more detail in the 'tech' post in this series - but generally speaking they're better for the environment and usually have really good deals/cost you less in the long term.

Not only can you switch providers but think about how you consume energy in your home in general. Simple things such as having shorter showers, using eco settings on appliances, turning lights off in rooms you're not using, and making sure electronics are completely turned off and not left on standby can cut your bill and your footprint. Even only filling your kettle with as much water as you actually need rather than completely filling it will help too!

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January 02, 2020

Fabrics and Fibres You Should be Avoiding

We all know by now that fast fashion is causing a crisis on our planet. We're buying and consuming more than ever before and it's having a detrimental impact. Women's wardrobes in particular have doubled in size but we're only wearing everything half as long with 80% of our clothing ending up in landfill (clothing that isn't biodegradable!). Even when clothing is given to services to be recycled, only around 1% of the fibres can be broken down and reused. With that in mind, something I've become more conscious of over the last few months is homing clothing pieces that are made of good materials that haven't put too much of a strain on our planet to be created and that will also degrade when they eventually reach the end of their cycle with me or whoever I pass those items on to.

Why natural vs. synthetic fibres are important
Only 2% of the textiles produced and sold worldwide are made of natural fibres such as linen, tencel, hemp etc. and that is pretty alarming. Although this is going up over time due to us taking more ethical and sustainable steps within our consumerism, we've still got a long way to go.

I've talked about natural vs. synthetic fibres before but the basics are this: natural fibres are typically less agriculturally intensive, they don't release micro-plastics when they're washed, they produce items which are more comfortable and breathable, and they biodegrade in a much shorter time than their synthetic counterparts (also without releasing toxins of any kind when doing so). Natural fibres help create a natural circular economy because they come from nature and go back to nature which is of course, the best scenario for our planet.

So... what fabrics and fibres should we be avoiding?

Girrrl, this is the worst of the worst. Polyester is the most unsustainable fibre because it starts it's life in an oil rig as it requires crude oil/petroleum to be made and therefore is using a fossil fuel. It takes the same weight of oil to make the same weight of polyester clothing - e.g. 1kg of oil will make roughly 1kg of fabric. This is so incredibly damaging to our environment in a multitude of ways, particularly when it's estimated that 70 million barrels of oil go towards fast fashion every year! It is also a very water-intensive production process which can lead to contamination.

Polyester is incredibly popular in fast fashion because it's built to not last. As it's low quality, 100% polyester items won't last you a long time so they're perfect for brands who want you to constantly spend money with them. Although they won't last you forever, they unfortunately will stick around on our planet for the foreseeable because they are basically wearable plastic bottles.

Scientists claim that it will last pretty much for forever as it is basically plastic and petroleum and therefore is not biodegradable. Not only that but, each time you wash and wear polyester, it sheds micro-plastics into our atmosphere and water systems which then ends up in our food chain.

It can be recycled but as with all recyclable plastics, it is simply turn into a lesser form of plastic which isn't really sustainable or a good option. It's the all-round bad guy and if you can avoid it, definitely do.

Synthetic blends are very similar to polyester in how they are produced and are often a material that has some polyester mixed in it. As these blends are exactly that - blends - they can't be recycled properly because they can't be separated again (imagine us trying to separate milk and sugar from a cup of tea with our hands; it's just not possible!).

Often synthetic blends aren't labelled as that and are instead labelled as percentages of the items makeup, so it's worth getting to know what your synthetic materials are so you can identify them when shopping (e.g. 40% polyester, 50% nylon, 10% acrylic.)

Acrylic tends to rear it's ugly head during the colder months as it's often used in knitwear. Not only is it incredibly uncomfortable to wear and doesn't really let your skin breathe, it is carcinogenic and can attack our nervous systems by being absorbed through our skin when wearing the fabric or by being inhaled. It's bad for us as consumers to wear but it's 100 times worse for the individuals creating acrylic items in factories. Manufacturing it is involves highly toxic substances which is detrimental to both factory workers and also our environment.

It's not easily recyclable or biodegradable making it a bad choice all-round.

Ahh, how many brands have you seen release vinyl skirts over the last couple of years? How many lingerie brands have PVC options that are meant to bring a bit of kink into your life? Well, I'm here to spoil your fun because PVC is the devil. It is not biodegradable and when it does break down, it simply breaks down into smaller particles of itself.

Just like Polyester, PVC is made from petroleum and therefore is contributing to fossil fuel usage too and similar to acrylic, it is carcinogenic, exposes garment workers to toxic chemicals during item production, and it also releases toxins into our environment.

Yet another fibre made from petroleum, Nylon is another bad egg. Producing Nylon is a very chemical intensive process which produces nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) but unfortunately, due to its durability and ability to be moulded into shape, it is commonly used in the fashion industry and you'll be most familiar with seeing it in your tights/stockings.

Not only does it emit a terrible greenhouse gas, but it is water-intensive to produce Nylon - which can lead to contamination and pollution much like Polyester - and it is also takes a lot of energy during it's manufacturing process too; meaning it contributes to global warming.

Okay, Rayon is one of those fibres that on first glance seems to be eco-friendly because it's made from plants but due to the toxicity of it's manufacturing process and the deforestation it leaves in its wake, it's actually pretty darn bad for our planet.

Viscose is the same thing as Rayon and Modal or "Modal Blends" on your clothing tags are also a type of Rayon (Modal is less toxic however, deforestation is still a huge impact on our planet when creating this material). Viscose is believed to be the third most commonly used fibre in the world which, considering the reasons I'm going to list, should be pretty alarming when taking into consideration the impact it has on our planet.

So although the raw crop is biodegradable (Viscose is usually derived from bamboo, eucalyptus, sugar cane etc. and Modal from softwood trees such as pine and beech), the chemicals used to change it into a fabric are toxic. These chemicals include carbon disulphide which can cause serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, birth defects and Parkinson's disease for factory workers who are in constant contact with it during it's production but also those who live close to those factories producing it too.

The deforestation caused by the growth of the raw crop is also obviously detrimental to our planet, people, and animals. The destruction of rain forests in areas such as Indonesia, India, and China are made regularly in order to make space for pulpwood plantations to create Rayon, Viscose, and Modal.

It's estimated that 30% of Rayon/Viscose/Modal is sourced from endangered and/or ancient forests worldwide and when we consider the fact that around 70% of the trees harvested for the pulp are wasted, it just hardly seems worth it. Due to the creation of these plantation to meet fast fashion demands, it means we are destroying wildlife habitats, altering ecosystems, and land-grabbing from indigenous people.

Unlike many of the other fibres discussed in this post, Rayon - of all types - is considered biodegradable but due to the many different manufacturing processes used to create it, (most of which using polluting chemicals we've talked about), it's not considered to be eco-friendly.

Of course, it is sometimes impossible to avoid these fibres listed as they may be the only option for particular items you need and just like me, they might be in your wardrobe already. When you buy anything new, it's worth knowing what fibres do what to our planet, our oceans, and even to our skin so that you can make reasonable decisions about your purchasing choices. I try my best to only buy natural, organic, fairtrade etc. fibres brand new now but if I'm buying secondhand, often it is fast fashion items that are made of those things listed above. The best thing to do in that scenario is to invest in a Guppy Friend for the washing machine, take good care of those items, and hand them to others when you're finished with them so they can continue to be used and not end up in landfill!

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