Saturday, 5 August 2017

Plastic- Not Fantastic

We had never heard of Plastic Free July until we were about 5 days in to the month.
Similarly to Veganuary, Stoptober etc, it is an initiative to help us look at the way we live, the impact it is having on the environment, or our health, and help us change towards a better way of living. Reducing plastic use is something we have always been conscious of but it has never featured too highly on our minds day to day. We are majoritively vegan, we use cloth nappies, we recycle as much as we can, but like most people have never stopped to think about the plastic we use, and throw away, each and every day.

I guess the first thing to think about is why this month even exists. Surely plastic is just a part of every day life? Well yes, it is. Our modern life style revolves around the use of plastic, it is in our homes, our cars, we wrap our food in it, a lot of children's toys are made from it.
 But, a substance that we once believed we could use and throw away without any impact at all on the environment is now becoming quite a problem in our world. Our oceans are becoming clogged with plastic. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Whales are ending up with tummies full of plastic carrier bags, and plastic bottles, plastic ends up getting caught around the feet, beaks and more of our marine life, and in addition to that, it is sitting in our landfills, unable to biodegrade. Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists? That was quite a shock to me when I found out. I guess I'd just never stopped to consider it.
Countries such as Norway have schemes where a deposit of around 15p is paid on plastic bottles, refundable when the bottle is dropped into a recycling bank. As a result, only 1 in 6 bottles washed up on Norwegian shores is from Norway.
The UK is very slow to make changes, but they are happening, such as the 5p bag charge, and coffee shops beginning to offer discounts to people with reusable cups. Supermarket in Brighton HiSbe sell dry food  from large dispensers, and our local vegan shop has also adopted this policy - we really hope it catches on.

So throughout the month we have been thinking about, talking about and making changes to the way we use plastic in our lives, and in every possible area we can, we have reduced or stopped using it. By sharing here we hope to inspire others to do the same.

  • Plastic bottles
They are everywhere, and an accepted part of every day life. Plastic bottles of water, of fizzy drinks, of cleaning materials, they line our supermarket shelves and fill our cupboards. So in a bid to stop using so many, we bought some reusable, stainless steel, water bottles. One for each of us, including Oskar, which now go out and about with us wherever we go. Sarah also takes hers to work. We fill them up before we leave, and if they need refilling when out, you can usually find somewhere happy to do this for you, like a local Starbucks, or other cafe. We even saw that there is a water fountain in Waterloo station now, to encourage people to reuse and not re-buy plastic bottles. Hopefully it'll be the start of more to come.  


Bottles from Babipur and The Wise House
  • Plastic bags
The government have helped us out with one with the 5p carrier bag charge, and I have to say we are pretty good at remembering to take reusable fabric bags out with us. There is one in the changing bag, and two in the car, so the chance of us needing to buy a plastic bag is fairly slim.      

Bag from The Vegan Kind                                                                                                                         
  • Toys
As we have previously written, we have a preference for wooden toys over plastic anyway. But if you are wondering where to start with replacing your plastic toys with wooden, then we would encourage you to recycle your plastic toys instead of throwing them away - donating them to a toy library or charity shop. Children don't care if their toys are second hand, they are still new to them, so give them a spruce up and donate them on, don't let all that plastic go to landfill.  
Wooden toys from Babipur                                                                                                                         
  • Toothbrushes 
Did you know that after nappies, toothbrushes are one of the biggest contributors to the plastics that end up in landfill? There is a simple solution, buy a wooden one! Bamboo toothbrushes are a sustainable and eco friendly alternative to plastic toothbrushes.  
Toothbrush from HumbleBrush
  • Nappies, wipes & pads
We have written in the past about us using and enjoying using cloth nappies and wipes, we also use cloth wipes to wipe Oskar's hand and face after meals. Reusable nappies, are adorable, better for your baby's skin, and much better for the planet - around 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away ever day in the UK - around 3% of all household waste. We have used cloth nappies and wipes on Oskar since he was two weeks old, and have tried most types and brands, so are always happy to give advice on anyone needing cloth nappy help! 
We also recently tried cloth sanitary towels from Bloom & Nora - although sceptic in the past we were amazed how discreet, reliable, and comfortable they were, as well as saving lots of plastic going in to landfill.

CSP from Bloom & Nora, nappies from TotsBots
  • Dinnerware 
We originally had bought plastic plates and cutlery for Oskar but when we needed to purchase more, we went for these beautiful bamboo ones. As well as being beautiful, the are 100% biodegradable.

Plate from Sweetness & Pea
  • Cling film / food storage
Most food storage is plastic, not to mention cling film, which as well as being non recyclable, also poses a problem to wildlife if not disposed of carefully. We hadn't really heard of any alternatives until recently, when we discovered fabric food pouches, and wax fabric food wraps. We even made our own wax food wraps, which was great as we now have a variety of different sizes that can be used as covers, wraps, or folded into pouches. 

Keep Leaf wrap from Babipur, others hand made by us!
We got some great ideas from Plastic Free July, and hope this post has given you ideas you may not have thought of too! If you would like more information on reducing your use of plastic, the following sites are really informative

A Reusable Life - our friend Heathers blog containing lots of eco friendly info
Babipur and The Wise House are great online stores for eco friendly items
There are lots of organisations who campaign to reduce plastic use, such as Surfers Against Sewage, Beach Clean, and Green Education Foundation 

This post is not sponsored, brands are mentioned just because we love them!

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Friday, 28 July 2017

When the eco friendly choice is also the luxury one!

We have long been fans of the eco friendly lifestyle - we eat a vegetarian, mainly vegan diet, we recycle, and are proud animal rights supporters, with Sarah previously being an active campaigner, and we reduce our use of plastic. So it was natural that when we had a baby, we would incorporate this - we wanted wooden toys, eco friendly toiletries, and bought a reusable wipes kit and cloth nappies.

Something we weren't sure of however, that we had seen on social media, were cloth sanitary pads. Although eco friendly we are also luxury lovers, and like our home comforts. They seemed perhaps a bit too extreme or radical for us - uncomfortable, bulky, unreliable. However, we weren't keen on the usual plastic sanitary towels and tampons finding them uncomfortable, a constant expense, and bad for the planet, and hadn't entirely liked Mooncups which we tried around 10yrs ago,  finding them fiddly and difficult to use away from home. 

So when we were asked by our favourite nappy brand Tots Bots, to try out some cloth pads from their sister brand Bloom & Nora, we thought it was a great way to see if they were for us.

Bloom & Nora describe their brand as 'purveyors of fine period wear', and we loved the girly, vintage style of the products and brand information. 

We got the idea of the pretty, luxury styling of the brand and products when they arrived in this packaging - this is definitely not your usual no frills eco brand!

Bloom & Nora has two different styles of cloth pad, called, unsurprisingly Bloom, and Nora. Both are Oekotex certified, meaning no chemicals are used at any stage. They come in super soft fabrics, have popper closure wings, and no-leak binding. 
Both styles come in four sizes; Mini for light flow (perfect if you aren't sure when your period will arrive but don't want to keep wasting liners!), Midi, which is probably closest to usual pad size, Maxi, for heavy flow, and Mighty, which is ideal for overnight, or post partum bleeding. 

Bloom pads come in bright, bold colours, and are made of completely natural materials. 

They are made from bamboo and cotton, and are seriously the softest things I've ever felt! 

Nora come in clean white with floral designs, and are designed to repel stains. They are quick drying, with a stay-dry core and a waterproof top layer. 

Also part of the range are these adorable matching 'out and about' bags - they are waterproof, and have two compartments to keep clean and used pads separate.

 We thought these were such a great idea, especially as they popper together, so are very compact.

I was surprised at how much I loved Bloom & Nora. As someone who had the opinion of 'I really should use them as they're better for the planet, but I just don't think they are reliable/comfortable/discreet enough', I was completely proven wrong.
The slim shape and wings that popper underneath the pad instead of around it make them extremely comfortable, and they were much thinner than I was expecting them to be. Despite them being discreet to wear, I found them more absorbent and reliable than regular pads - the binding around the edge is a great idea. They were so much nicer to wear than plasticky pads or tampons. I was definitely able to wear the smaller two sizes with skinny jeans without worrying they were visible, whereas I would probably use the larger two at night. I did find there was quite a gap between the sizes of the smaller two and the larger two, with the larger two being quite similar in size.

They were really easy to look after  - they can be washed along with your underwear, just without fabric softener, as like with cloth nappies, this affects the absorbency. I did find the Bloom pads needing stretching back into shape a little after washing, as the inners seemed to shrink slightly, giving them a curved shape - though this isn't a bad thing due to them being curved during use anyway. 

 The Nora pads were my favourite, although I did love how soft the Blooms were, the fact that Nora pads are fast drying made them feel much more comfortable to me as they had a fresh, dry cotton feel to them. For this reason I would be more likely to use Nora during the day, and the super soft Bloom at night. I also found they washed slightly better than the Bloom pads.

If you prefer stain resistence and a stay-dry feel, go for Nora, if you want super soft and completely natural, go for Bloom (although the Nora are also very soft, and the Bloom hasn't stained as of yet!)

Choosing the eco friendly option is often seen as making a scrifice where appearance, luxury or functionality are concerned, but we have increasingly found over the years that this isn't the case.
It's a lovely feeling that choosing an eco friendly option is actually the option that is girly, indulgent and luxurious, and actually works better - we are definitely Bloom & Nora converts! 
Even if you have no interest in eco friendly products, I would still highly recommend you give Bloom & Nora a go, as quite simply, they are a better, prettier, luxury version of regular sanitary products. Although - you can definitely be safe in the knowledge you are also doing good things for our planet- each regular sanitary towel contains as much plastic as four plastic bags - which all ends up in landfill.

Bloom & Nora pads are available from TotsBots with pads starting at £4.99 for a Mini up to £8.99 for a Mighty. You can also purchase money saving 3 packs, or trial kits containing one of each size with a free Out & About bag.

Bloom & Nora kindly provided us with a Bloom trial kit and a Nora trial kit, in exchange for us sharing our thoughts.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

TotsBots and Swim Tots!

We consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable when it comes to cloth nappies - we have put our 13 month old in 'cloth bums' since he was two weeks old, and have tried most types, finding out which ones work for us.

But when it comes to cloth swim nappies, we are not nearly as clued up! We haven't seen many different styles, and it seems much harder to find adorable prints in swim cloth nappies (as opposed to regular cloth nappies which have become somewhat of an addiction!). The first time Oskar went swimming was with his cousin, who's mummy kindly gave him disposable swim nappies, and after that we used the first swim cloth nappies we bought - which although were fine, we weren't keen on the drawstring waist, and the prints weren't amazing. 

So when one of our favourite cloth nappy brands TotsBots announced they were launching some new swim
nappies, we were very happy! 

We were lucky enough to have a trip to Brighton coinciding with the exciting arrival of our nappy, so tried it out on the beach!

First of all, this is the most adorable swim nappy print we've ever seen! We love whales and bright rainbow colours, so were in love with the 'Under The Sea' print before it was even on our boy!

Oskar seemed pretty happy with it too!

The first thing we loved about the Swim Tots Nappy was the Velcro fastening. We found it much easier to put on Oskar than the drawstring waist pants style that we had tried before, and easier to take off and change too. 

The Velcro fasteners made it much easier to get a perfect fit, which then seemed really comfortable for Oskar. 

The waist and legs are gently elasticated to catch number twos, and the nappy just seemed to feel much more secure and comfortable - more like a regular cloth nappy than other cloth swim nappies we've tried that didn't seem to have the best fit. 

The nappy is 100% breathable which was great during our beach trip as it was uncharacteristicly sunny and hot for England! It has a lovely soft microfibre interior, and is designed to be comfy and stretchy. 

We were thrilled with the Swim Tots nappy - it was easy to use, had the best fit of any Swim cloth nappy we've tried, was so comfortable for Oskar, kept him dry (although we were lucky enough to not be able to test out the number two effects!) and looked so gorgeous!

We will definitely be purchasing some of the other Swim Tots prints - even if we aren't graced with sunny weather, the Swim Tots Nappy is quite slim, so will be great under Oskar's little wetsuit for when we take him to a swimming pool.

As well as the beautiful Under The Sea print modelled by Oskar, there is another adorable new print 'Dig It'! 
Both Swim Tots are available in two sizes, so are suitable from tiny baby up to potty training, and are both £10.99 each.

We were supplied with a Swim Tots Nappy for the purpose of a review by the very wonderful TotsBots. 

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

4th wedding anniversary & marriage conversion!

We recently celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary - we cannot believe that wonderful day was already four years ago! 
We spent our 1st wedding anniversary on a West Coast USA road trip, our 2nd anniversary on a vegan food tour and a luxury hotel in London, and our 3rd at Birmingham Botanical Gardens with our son who was just 4 weeks old, so we wanted to make this one special too! 

Brighton is such a special place to us - we have been visiting for nine years, and got engaged there in 2011. As it's our favourite place in the world, any special occasion is an excuse to go, so where to spend our anniversary was an easy decision - we were so excited for this trip. And of course, it was even more special as we got to show our beautiful Brighton, to our beautiful boy! 

So early on Monday morning, 3rd July 2017, we packed up our car, dropped Willow off with her grandparents, and set off on the 3 and a half hour journey. 

After an enjoyable drive we arrived at the hotel we got engaged at six years ago. On the night of our engagement Lauren and I shared a bubble bath in front of the window with champagne by the moonlight, it was one of those amazing moments we will treasure forever, so it was lovely to have a bath in front of the window in this room too! It bought back so many wonderful memories, and we were excited to make new memories here too. 

In another nod to our engagement, the hotel also kindly left us a rose petal heart on our bed! As well as chocolates and a lovely 'welcome back' card. We felt right at home! 

All settled in, we decided to head out into the beautiful sunshine - we were eager to get outside and take in the magic of a place that holds so many of our memories, and we were also so lucky to get such good weather! It felt like we had arrived on a foreign holiday, and we felt a million miles away from chores, and work!

We spent a good couple of hours wandering along the sea front, taking in the sights, and enjoying the sunshine. Oskar was more than happy sitting in his pushchair, watching all the hustle and bustle of the pier, the promenade and the beach below us. We realised it was the first time our little boy had ever actually seen the sea, as on his first trip to the beach the tide was so far out we didn't see it!

After all that walking we were a little tired, and rather hungry! We decided to go straight out for dinner, and headed to somewhere that had been on our 'to visit' list on our last trip to Brighton, but didn't have time for. Purezza is a vegan pizza restaurant, and completely blew us away! The pizza was the best we had ever eaten, it was absolutely delicious. The decor was pretty, and the staff was so lovely. 

They even provide childrens meals for free, so after asking if he would manage his own mini pizza (of course he will, he is our son after all!), bought Oskar the cutest and loveliest little vegan Margherita pizza. He devoured it!

Full and happy, we wandered back to our hotel, and all settled down for a good nights sleep! It made us laugh that the hotel had asked if we needed a travel cot in our room for Oskar. We wish! Oskar only sleeps in one type of bed and that is a large one, with his mummies! 

Tuesday 4th July was our 4th wedding anniversary. Just being in Brighton was already so special, but we had decided to make it even more memorable by converting our civil partnership to a marriage. We had been unsure originally whether to bother converting or not - after all, we were married and wives in every sense of the word, and wording on our certificate seemed unimportant. Our wedding day four years ago was undoubtedly our wedding day - it was amazing, very traditional, and legally binded us. If we had another 'wedding day' for our conversion, it would have been a replica of our original wedding day, and feel like getting married twice, which would seem odd. For us, our wedding day will always be our wedding day, we have no desire to duplicate or replicate it (plus there is no way we are getting in to those dresses again without hitting the gym hard and eating much less!!) 
But a conversion seemed like a lovely way to reaffirm our vows and love for each other, particularly now we are mothers as well as wives! So we woke up on Tuesday full of excitement and happiness, greeted by more beautiful sunshine.

Not only we were greeted by sunshine, but delicious breakfasts in bed!  We had a lovely morning of food, cards, presents and cuddles. We understand why people wait until they have children to tie the knot, and why it's important for them to include their children in their marriage, solidifying them as a family, but we chose to do it the other way around, and are glad of the decision to marry before children. However there was something very special about having our son, our beautiful little boy, half of each of us and a mixture of both, be present on our conversion day. We got married as a couple, and had our conversion as a family. 

After breakfast we all got ready - we both wore white sundresses, in a tribute to our wedding day, and Oskar looked adorable in a linen shirt and trousers! We obviously didn't want formal wedding dresses, but equally wanted our outfits to reflect the occasion.

It was so beautiful making our way through Brighton to the Town Hall - the sun shone, we talked and laughed, it was perfect. 

Our conversion was booked for 12pm - the exact time of our wedding ceremony four years ago. It felt more exciting, special, and significant than we expected! It was so special that we got to reaffirm our love with Oskar by our side, and we admit getting a little emotional when reading aloud that we understand we were then legally wife and wife. And of course, how special that our marriage certificate states Brighton, our favourite place in the world. We still have our civil partnership certificate too, in commemoration of our wonderful wedding day in our home city of Birmingham.  It was just perfect.

After the conversion we decided to enjoy the beautiful day and spend some time in the Pavillion Gardens. The Pavillion is of course a famous landmark in Brighton, so to sit and enjoy a view of it, surrounded by flowers, was beautiful. Whilst we were there, we met up with Heather, who we have chatted to online over the past six months. Not only have we found lots in common with the way we parent (Heather has a beautiful son around Oskar's age), but she also gives us wonderful ideas in regards to being more eco friendly, and most importantly, we have loved getting to know her, so it was lovely to meet her finally!

Heather was kind enough to offer to take some pictures of us to remember our special day, and we were so glad she did, as she is a wonderful photographer;  I love how natural the pictures are, and how they captured our mood perfectly - right now we are the happiest we've ever been, and I think it shows!

After a quick stop back at our hotel to change, we headed back out, this time to the beach, as it was later in the afternoon so a little cooler. The sun reflecting on the water was stunning, and as he is still obsessed with sorting things into piles, Oskar had great fun with all the pebbles! It was one of those "life feels pretty perfect right now" moments, just sitting together on the beach, watching the waves crash and the tide ebb and flow, watching our son in front of us oblivious to the importance of the day he was a part of. It was peaceful, beautiful and special.

We decided there was no better way to finish off such a magical day than by going to our favourite restaurant, Food For Friends. We have visited every time we have been to Brighton, including on the night of our engagement, and always have the best time. The food is incredible, and it was lovely to have Oskar there with us, again the staff were fantastic with him. Despite having to wait a little while for our food, Oskar was so well behaved - we are really proud of how good he is when we eat at restaurants. 

After our gorgeous meal, we went back to our room to watch a beautiful sunset. We remember having this feeling in Brighton when we got engaged, but our 4th anniversary was just a perfect day, and one we will remember forever. 

Wednesday was our last day in Brighton , and we were very sad to be leaving! However, our hotel very generously offered us a day of free parking, so that we had an extra day in Brighton, as the weather was so sunny! We dressed Oskar in the super cute Frugi outfit given to him by Becky & Janay, a lovely couple who we have gotten to know on Instagram, and again, really get on with with, but also identify with their parenting methods too - Oskar looked so sweet!

Our first stop was breakfast at vegan restaurant VBites. We usually have full English breakfasts there  but the heat had stolen our appetites, so we went with delicious portions of mushrooms and hummus on toast. Next on our itinerary for the day was another Brighton landmark that is special to us, The Lanes. We spent most of the morning wandering the shops, buying tie dye Tshirts, vegan snacks, eco parenting magazines, and also went to an amazing shop we'd come across on Instagram, who have huge bottles of vegan perfume on the walls, all copies of famous brands, which they decant into 30, 50 or 100ml bottles, so we made a purchase here too! 

After lots of walking, we returned to Pavillion Gardens for a bit of relaxation! After a busy day in the hot sun our tummies wanted to be filled again, so we found somewhere else that had been on our list for a while for a late lunch / early dinner. The Hope and Ruin is a quirky pub serving vegan loaded fries and corn dogs. We wanted to try everything, so ended up with a table-ful of food - corn dogs, cheese dogs, pulled 'pork' topped fries, peanut butter & chilli jam fries...yum! 

Sadly as it grew closer to the evening, we reluctantly packed up the car to begin our journey home. But before we left, we stopped in Hove to enjoy a stroll along the beach huts, and one more hour enjoying the beautiful sea and sun! 

Brighton, our 4th wedding anniversary, and our conversion of marriage, were everything we wanted them to be and much more - we couldn't have hoped for a more incredible trip. It was full of sunshine, happiness, laughter, love and amazing food! We were in a place that symbolises us, who we are and the way we live our lives, so with our son by our side there really was no better place in the world than for us to become officially lawful wives.

We also have a little video of our trip on our YouTube channel here!

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