Sunday, 25 September 2016

Zero Waste :: Challenges

Let me start by saying that I am not living zero waste. However, since I discovered this movement last year, I have become more and more interested in it, and working towards reducing my waste considerably. I've always tried to be conscious of the environment, my mum drilled into me never to accept a plastic bag and to recycle like a fiend. I don't automatically throw something away because it's broken, I'm a dab hand with a needle and thread - you should see some of the toes in my tights!

Since I've started reading more and more about zero waste, I realise that I was complacent. I thought that refusing plastic bags and recycling was enough. But it's not. We are consuming more and more of the things that simply do not rot away. The rubbish in India was quite shocking, strewn along the streets in the city and throughout the countryside. The thing is, I know that we have a similar amount produced here, but we're just better at hiding it away. In India, the rubbish is all there to see on the road, but here ours is just piled up high in landfill.

Anyway, I realise that my measly recycling is not enough. So this year I have been attempting to learn new habits and make small incremental changes, taking tips from those who really are doing this zero waste thing right.

It's not easy, not at all! Here are a few of the challenges I have faced so far (my successes to follow).

Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk is the mainstay in all zero waste advice. Yes, what a wonderful idea. To be able to take your own container to the shop, and fill it with exactly the amount of pasta, cornflakes, flour, rice, honey, oil etc that you need. Here is the problem for me; London has VERY FEW shops that offer any bulk products. Those that are listed at a reasonable distance for me on this handy bulk locator are generally only for coffee and Lush soap products. 

There is a pilot scheme in Muswell Hill Planet Organic - which is so far out of my way it is not a viable option. As Nature Intended sell a very limited amount of items in bulk - of which I would want to buy only oats - and the price is 3 times that of what I can buy in tesco.

I do my best to buy as much as possible without packaging in the supermarket see photo above for a typical week's packaging). I never ever take those crap plastic bags for fruit or bread rolls. I've deliberately chosen products that are sold in glass whenever possible. The thing is, if going zero waste necessitates shopping in the bulk aisle, I'm afraid I will not be able to make it there for the time being. 

Cleaning with vinegar

Our kitchen cleaner ran out recently. So I decided to refill the spray bottle with some homemade cleaner. Equal parts water to equal parts vinegar. It sure cleans well, but it also leaves your kitchen smelling like a fish and chip shop. I'm soaking some lemon peel in to attempt to soften the pong, but its certainly clear whenever anyone in our house has wiped down the surfaces!

ZW survival kit

The zero waste kit is a very important part of success of creating no waste. These are the reusable containers that you need to take with you so that you are not relying on disposable plastic boxes, cup or bags. I haven't yet used these on my weekly shop; although I should start to add this into my routine. I have never shopped at the deli & fish counters as I think these are more expensive than on the shop floor (see my point below). That would be another way to cut out some packaging though, so I'll probably try to add this as my next step on this journey. I have been pretty good at taking my keepcup with me so that I don't have to have a disposable cups when I get a latte. I even took this with me to Berlin and Greece! I have a glass water bottle that I've taken with me as much as possible as well. However, these items are heavy and/or bulky. If I want to take these with me, and keep myself waste free, I have to lug these things around with me. And in some cases (the keepcup) just incase I want to have a coffee. Sometimes I feel like I have a coffee to justify having carried the empty cup with me. Three times this week I forgot to take my cup, and three times I wanted to have a coffee (because this week felt like the longest of the year & I was particularly tired). Eventually on the third day I caved and bought a latte in a disposable cup. I haven't thrown it away yet. I'm going to try and reuse it rather than chuck it in the bin (suggestions for how please!). But this is one aspect that makes zero waste difficult, it can be quite inconvenient to always carry around your arsenal of containers!

Costly alternatives

Don't let anyone tell you it's going to save you money. At least not in the sort term. Maybe in the long run, since if you are really going zero waste you are going to have to cut an enormous amount from your life. So you will be buying less, because there is much less available to you once you are zero waste. 

This is something that is hailed as a positive from the movement, and I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but at least when you first start to switch to some of the alternatives you end up paying more. Case in point, I recently bought some white distilled vinegar to make the homemade cleaner mentioned above. There were two options in my local supermarket, one in a plastic bottle and one in a glass bottle. The plastic bottle was 39p, the glass one was £1. I chose the glass one, as this can be recycled without losing material integrity. It was the more expensive option though... 

Shampoo Bars & Body Butter

Beauty products are one of the main areas of plastic that it 'should' be easy to counter-act. I recently bought two bath bombs in Lush and in the bag (paper) that they came in, there was a brochure focusing on all of the products they sell that come package free. One of the ones I was most interested to try - and which I thought I could make the switch to easily, was shampoo in a bar. I realised that I actually already had a shampoo bar that I had taken with me from the hotel after my brothers' wedding (two years ago!) So I decided to give it a go. After the first wash my hair felt absolutely disgusting. As I brushed through the knots, a horrible layer of white soap scum started to build up on my hairbrush and my hair felt dirtier than before I washed it. Not to be disheartened, I decided to try it again, and this time spend much longer rinsing out the soap. Alas, after my second wash today my hair still feels completely full of crap. I'm going to have to wash it again with normal shampoo to hopefully remove the layers of soap. I rinsed it for a long time, trying my best to get it all clear, but obviously that was not enough. Maybe I should have rinsed for even longer, but that really defeats the object of being environmentally friendly, and you just end up wasting litres of water! I'm not going to be completely beaten, as I will still give a lush bar a go to see if they have a better recipe... but so far this must be deemed a failure.

My other beauty disaster was the whipped body butter I made from this recipe. I was very excited about this one, and had to order in most of the ingredients from online - not package free alas... I tried my best to get along with this, But it was simply too greasy. It's really not particularly surprising since it's only made with oils... but I was still disappointed. I have since found another recipe for a lotion, which I am hoping I will have better luck with. And I am going to use the excess shea butter in a sugar scrub recipe as well. So there shouldn't be too much waste. It really goes to show that there isn't a perfect plan to follow to get to zero waste, and it really is a case of trial and error to find a way that works for you. At least I am on the path though!

Glass & Plastic

I made homemade toothpaste as per this recipe and I was using it regularly - until the summer when it melted. Everything was peachy, and the toothpaste was living happily in my lovely glass jar. When one morning I dropped the jar by accident. It hit the sink as it fell to the floor and a large chunk of the bottom came off. 

I can see the logic of using glass instead of plastic. Plastic is really a devil of a material. However, glass is fragile and I'm not a particularly clumsy person but it's inevitable that at some point you might drop this and unlike plastic, it's not going to bounce but more likely shatter. As this guardian columnist also discovered, although rather than in the privacy of her bathroom her breakage was a little more public.

::Have you been interested in zero waste? Are you trying to live more sustainably? Any tips or tricks you can suggest to help me on my journey?!::

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Tate Modern :: Switch House

About a month ago, I was watching the local news as they announced the opening of the new ten storey extension to the Tate Modern. This surprised me no end, since I cycle past the gallery every day and had not noticed this apparently very large addition! Jasmin and I were in the area recently having brunch (here) and as it was a nice day I suggested we pop over to see the new part. It's located just behind the original Boiler house section, and isn't that noticeable from the river side (which is presumably why I hadn't noticed it at all!) 

We were there on a Saturday, so it was pretty busy. The new galleries were fairly interesting, and weird as to be expected from a Modern Art gallery. Unfortunately the lifts to the 10 floor, where the viewing platform is, were constantly full and the queues to board were crazy. So we decided to leave that for the day.

The following week I had a few days off of work, so I headed back down early on in the day mid-week to take a look. I always like to climb up tall buildings and enjoy the view and this was no exception. It's right on the river and the weather was pretty clear so I could see a fair way across the city. There was one side that basically just looked straight into the apartment buildings next door - with floor-ceiling windows - which I can't imagine the residents are particularly happy about, but I did enjoy gazing out East to my side of town!

I would say that the view isn't as good as that from the Sky Garden in 20 Fenchurch street, but I'm always happy to have a new place to head for free views of the city.

Jasmin and her origami box

The following were from the Louise Bourgeois permanent exhibition. I was familiar with her work, as its often spider shaped!

Busy busy lift

Canada Water right back there across from Canary Wharf

Apartment living

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Wanderings Lately :: June

June had flown by! It has mostly been characterised by everyone moaning about the weather. This includes me, and has meant that I haven't been able to cycle to work as much as I had hoped. Rain on and off all day, almost every day! So far our first couple of days of July have seen a little better weather, but still temperamental. 

June was my first full month without dissertation responsibilities, and I actually don't think I have used to time as well as I could have, so for the next month, I plan to take more advantage of having completely free time, getting out and exploring my city again!


This month was my mum, brother and one of my uni friend's birthdays, and fathers' day (where does that apostrophe go, does the day belong to all fathers or just to mine?)

We had a little surprise for my mum, as my brother come over from Barcelona without her knowing. Due to the weather the day ended up being us sheltering from the rain in a pub, and then walking to our dinner reservations in Bermondsey Street in the evening. 

For fathers' day I went back to Essex to cook, other brother came as well as my nan and I annoyed everyone by snapchat filtering them as much as possible!

For Hannah birthday, again the weather didn't cooperate, but we made the most of it, just spending the time together. SHe also ended up with three cakes - one for every decade!


I had two sports related sucesses this month, first when my netball team finally managed to win a game! We were a completely new team at the beinning of the season, and it took us quite a while to get used to playing together, and since there are usualy one or two people who can't make it each week. In our final game of the season however, the whole team was there and we managed to beat the league winners! Afterwards we all spilled out from the court to the nearby pub and had a shot together to celebrate!

I have been wanting to take part in the colour run for quite a while and signed up for the 2016 one earlier in the year. The day of the race came round this June and I was not prepared for it at all. Thankfully I managed to get around to the finish without stopping, or getting a stitch! I have taken this as a kick start to get running regularly again. As I don't like running in the evenings, but find it incredibly hard to get up earlier on a work day to run - when I know I'm going to have to jump on my bike straight afterward - this is just one a week for now. Either Saturday or Sunday. Who know, maybe I'll get the itch to go mid-week once I'm back in the swing of things!


The last two weeks have been very strange. I voted to stay in the EU, but as we all know I was on the losing side. This makes me very worried, and as events of the last week have shown, the government is in complete disarray. The future is very uncertain but I hope and pray that our leaders sort themselves out and take us forward in the best way possible. 

This month I attended the "State of London Debate' at the Indigo at the O2. This was an event with Sadiq Khan, and three of his deputy mayors, firstly giving us an overview of his vision at this early stage of his station at Mayor of London and then taking questions for the audience. I realised the other day, that Sadiq becoming Mayor is the first time I've found myself on the winning side of Democracy. I've always voted, I think it's important even when I had no real idea who was running or even what I was voting for (local, regional, national or European MPs). In that time, no one I have voted for has won, except Sadiq Khan for Mayor. I'm really proud that he won, and whilst I don't doubt that he will probably not be able to fulfill everything he wants to, I believe he will do his best for this city. He did really well at the debate, giving the audience real examples of how he plans to tackle various issues in London. I think he's a unifying politician, and in this time of turmoil, I'm glad to have him representing our city.

My fixed life

I ordered a desk chair a couple months ago, and it was finally delivered this month. My housemates thought my excitmenet very entertaining on delivery day. This is the first piece of furniture I have ever owned. Yes that desk is mine, but my mum bought that. Everything else in my house is rented. I moved around, in London and abroad that I never really bought anything - besides a full length mirror in Korea which obviously I left there when I moved home. This chair will come with my wherever I might move next and that's quite grown up!

 :: How are you feeling post-Brexit? ::

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Wanderings Lately :: April & May

Well, it was all going very well and then April hit and I could think of nothing else but my dissertation and impending deadline. Would I be able to meet that deadline? To be honest I was convinced that I couldn't and wasn't truly trying. Although I was still using all of my free time to work in the library I just thought the 17th May would come and go without my having written and bound a 15,000 word thesis. Heaven knows how, but I did finish it in time and enjoyed popping into my uni during my lunch break from work and handing it over to my student administrator. Phew, it was finally done! That day I had to travel to Oxford to attend a farewell dinner for one of our Spring groups. That same week two other Summer groups arrived. The busiest time at work is well underway now, but I can't explain fully how freeing it was to hand in that report. I could finally plan to see friends, and my weekend suddenly opened up. I could crack open my Secret London guide book and search out some gems.

The story of my dissertation is an epic one, spanning almost two years. BUT IT'S DONE NOW! (as long as I pass...)

Anyway as I was caught up in study mode, I didn't manage to get out April's wanderings lately and May's is really quite late. So this post covers both months and sets me back on track with blogging! Woop!


Paperchase is one of my favourite shops. I know many people who also love new stationery and their cards are very unique and pretty. The shop on Tottenham Court Road is their flagship store and covers three floors of wonderful paperchase-ness! They also have a little cafe that looks over the bustling street below.

One lunchtime I wandered in and collected a few cards for future birthdays and was also seduced by a reduced umbrella with a panda handle (so nice!). As this is a large store, they have a lot more than just stationery and cards and I was also won over by a large pineapple jug. At the time, whilst I really liked it, I just thought 'I don't need a big jug shaped like a pineapple...' So I left the jug there. This is a shopping tactic I have, introduced by my thrifty mum, where I will see something I like but decide it's something I don't need or can't really afford. I'll leave the shop without the new item but if I am still thinking about it after I've left, I think 'No I do actually want it' and will go back. If said item has now sold out, it wasn't meant to be. If it's still there, my joy is all the sweeter because I waited to know whether I really liked it!

On this occasion, the jug was still there and I was happy to make it mine! In the same range was lunch box set above, which obviously I had to also have. I have used this every day since to take my lunch to work. Stylish and economical! I have also used the jug twice for drinks at our Canada Water BBQs. I'm chuffed at how many compliments it gets as well. Definitely worth the investment!

Queen's Birthday

It seems like it's been the Queen's birthday since January, and I know she has two and all that but this still a bit much! Thanks to this over-celebration, and some serious friend perks, I was invited along to a party at City Hall at the end of April. The highlight was the view over tower bridge (extra strong binoculars available to spy on passers-by a little weird though). 


In May we voted for our next London Mayor, and I was happy to see Sadiq was the choice for Londoners. I am very much expectant for him to keep his promise of a bus-hopper ticket, so I won't get penalised for having to take two buses within an hour. This is something that is already in place in Korea, in fact they have a transferable journey fee from tube to bus as well. I probably won't use it that often, but it's something that I liked from his manifesto.

I will be attending the State of London debate at the end of June too, so will see what else he has to say about the city.

This month we will be voting again, this time about whether or not to stay in the EU. It's really not clear how the country will vote, and the polls have proven themselves to be worthless over and over so I don't even want to consider them. We'll see come the 29th June. Just let it be known that I want to remain in the EU.


We had some shocking weather recently, but they have been interspersed with some wonderful days - usually during the week when everyone is at work. They have prompted me to try and get out of the office to eat my lunch and get a bit of fresh air. The cherry blossoms were out and a colleague at work organised for a bulk order of burritos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. This is a celebration I have no idea about, and only discovered after making American friends in Korea but it was nice to change my lunch from a salad and sit in the sunshine eating this in Tavistock Square!

The bulbs I planted in my garden have also started growing - this photo is from about the end of April time, and the plants are much bigger now, and probably planted in the wrong part of the flower bed, but I'm still looking forward to when they flower!


And this was my view for most of the last two months... But as I already mentioned I have now finally finished and the dissertation is all handed in!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Afternoon tea down the Rabbit Hole

To celebrate Jasmin's 30th un-birthday, we took her for the Mad Hatter themed afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel in London. I've been to a lot of different afternoon teas - both for work and socially - and have had very mixed experiences. 

I feel that generally, as long as you have tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones the difference is really about the surroundings. I have a draft post for a future date with my top picks in London. But for a bit of a spoiler: this one was awesome!

I couldn't really work the Sanderson out... it didn't seem to really know what it was. Walking past the outside, it's very non-descript. In fact I didn't realise until I booked this tea that I'd actually walked past it many times before. The outside is a bog standard 70s style building, set on a narrow street between Oxford and Goodge streets. Inside it wasn't particularly grand. The reception was a very large space littered with quirky seats (as in the above photo). This large expanse ended at a fairly small check in desk.

It seemed to want to make a big statement, but it was neither welcoming nor beautiful and impressive. It was mostly just trying too hard to be 'cool'.

Having said that the restaurant was nice. We were seated outside, but under cover next to heaters and with fleecy blankets if we needed. 

The menu was hidden inside an old novel and the description of each of the teas was on the back of these playing cards.

We got to smell the teas before we chose which we wanted to try. We ended up having a pot of each of them to test them all.

Croque Monsieur was definitely my favourite of the sandwiches.

And the cakes were all themed. I really enjoyed them all. Highlights included the chocolate Oreo soldier biscuits, marshmallow toadstools and the lady bird almond cakes.

I personally didn't like this one as it was coconut. But the idea is you drink the cocktail through the straw and get three distinct flavours.

Jasmin got an extra little something as it was her birthday. We didn't ask for this but they asked whether we were celebrating anything when we first sat down. That was a nice surprise.

An 'extra' that everyone gets when they have finished their sandwiches and cake was this little flower pot of ice cream. We were all pretty stuffed by the end but this was an unusual little ending of the meal. The flowers were edible.

This tea is one of the more pricey in London, but I really thought it was worth it. The food was excellent and you are probably paying a little more for the quirky nature of the day but that really does add to the experience.

::Have you been to afternoon tea? What did you enjoy most? Do you eat your scones cream first or jam first?::