An Eco-Friendly Christmas?

A little while ago I saw this article via Twitter about a ‘Merry Eco Christmas’ and it prompted me to think about my choices around this time of year. I’ve commented on a few of the points made below:

The first item on the least deals with food waste, something that I don’t think is any worse in our house at Christmas than any other time of year. That’s not to say that we don’t waste food, unfortunately we do, but mainly vegetables that can go into one of our compost bins. At Christmas, with it just being Ashley and myself (and occasionally a friend) eating Christmas dinner, I don’t bother with the traditional Turkey. Even a small one would be far too big for us and I’m quite happy with a good quality chicken on the table. Even so, there’s usually leftovers but a curry, risotto or stir fry usually takes care of that! This year we have our home grown parsnips to roast, but I don’t think our Brussels sprouts have grown enough to produce by Christmas – but you never know! I will try to make the effort to buy some local fresh veg – there are plenty of farm shops around here to choose from. To be honest, I can’t see any mince pies, puddings or cake being wasted around here! Ashley and I have made our own Christmas cake and I have promised myself I will make my own mince pies rather than buying them this year!

Christmas presentA few years ago, I decided to try to use mostly brown paper rather than pretty Christmas themed wrapping paper. I did add little bits of wrapping paper to brighten things up, but mostly it was brown paper. I thought that I was being more ‘eco-friendly’ and maybe I was, but realistically it’s down to the recipients of those presents to bother to recycle it. Our paper recycling bag sits in the corner of the living room each Christmas day to encourage us to put used wrapping paper straight into it.


The point about turning the thermostat down a degree is irrelevant to us! We don’t have our heating on at all as a rule! The wood burner in the living room does a grand job of heating most of the house (it’s only little), and we only put our central heating on if it’s unbearably cold – which is rare in Cornwall, and not generally until late Jan or Feb.


I must admit, I’ve never chosen Christmas cards based on whether they come from recycled sources or not! I usually buy a few at least, even if I’m making the bulk of them, so this year I will try to pay more attention to whether or not the card used is recycled. I always recycle cards that we receive though our normal council recycling.


On a final note, we don’t host a Christmas party or have friends/relatives to stay so no extra waste on disposable party plates etc!

All in all, I don’t think that we do too badly on the points mentioned in the article I read…..


There’s a lot more that I feel we could do; changes to how much we spend on presents and the types of things we buy, how much extra food we buy at Christmas (even though not much goes to waste!) and I’m sure many other things. I’m just not too sure on how prepared I am to make that leap into a much less commercial Christmas! But I must try…

Citrus cleaner

I mainly use my citrus cleaner in the chicken house as it is all natural and shouldn’t harm the chickens. I read about it first in a chicken keeping magazine that we purchased when we first got the girls. I spray the onside of the chicken house, give it a good scrub then rinse it off. It is simply storing lemon and orange peels in a jar filled with white vinegar for a few weeks. citrus peel cleanerThen strain off the liquid, dilute with water and voilà! After several weeks in the jar, the vinegary smell is overpowered by the citrus. I have nearly run out of my original batch so have started another. With recent batches of jam and elderflower cordial made, I’ve had plenty of lemon peel so that has made up the majority of this batch. It’s a great way to use citrus peel that might otherwise be thrown away and too much in the compost bin at once isn’t great.

Finding an alternative Laundry soap

I have tried not to use commercial laundry detergents for a few years now. First I tried soap nuts, little dried fruit shells that contain a lot of saponin (soap). They are supposed to be hypo-allergenic, can be reused several times and are compost-able. The grey water can be used in the garden too, which was something that we were interested in (although haven’t actually got round to implementing a grey water system). The downside was that they don’t grow in the UK and so have to be shipped in from much hotter countries. Once I started using them in the washing machine, I found that I needed to use a higher temperature to get a good clean and at the time, my washing machine took about two hours to wash at anything warmer than 30 degrees! I liked the fact that you used them 3 or 4 times before they were ‘used up’ and they then had a 5th use in the compost. Unfortunately, sometimes the little bag they are used in would come open and then you’d have little pieces of the shells all over your clothes. This was easily solved by using a reusable bag clip (the sort you might reseal your loaf of bread with) to hold the top of the bag closed. I had also tried making hand soap out of it by boiling the ‘nuts’ to extract the soap. The hand soap was OK, but I REALLY hated the smell of the soap nuts boiling. So the box I had went under the sink and has stayed there ever since.

Around that time, I was given some ‘eco balls’ as a birthday gift (maybe a strange gift to some, but exactly the sort of thing that I like!). These had little ‘pellets’ (refillable) contained within a hard plastic ball and a foam ‘cushion’ around that to stop them making so much noise in the machine and possibly damaging clothes. These were really easy to use – just throw in the machine (there were two of them in the pack) and away you go. These I used for much longer than the soap nuts (in fact I’ve been using them for most of the last 2 years), but again, they seem to work better at hotter temperatures and whites certainly need something a bit extra to keep looking good. And if anything was heavily soiled with perspiration, mud, etc then I would often end up putting these things through at least 2 wash cycles to get clean. So, I would often end up being tempted to buy a small bottle of well known commercial washing liquid or powder for washing heavier soiled things, whites and towels. I think I just never really believed that things were getting very clean.

I had been getting more and more reliant on commercial detergents again, and I even bought a pack of the liquid filled capsules recently – ridiculously expensive and have more liquid in each one than you need so is quite wasteful in my opinion. I made the decision to change my ways, do some research and try to find some alternatives. Another Pintrest trawl put me onto this tutorial for a laundry soap made with castile soap and bicarb – as you know, 2 of my current favourite things! It seemed pretty simple and I was drawn to the limited ‘ingredients’ list. I have seen many other tutorials for home made laundry soap and most contain Borax or hydrogen peroxide and a whole variety of things, which is really not what I was after.

I had the necessary ingredients to hand so there was really no reason not to try it. It was very simple to make which is always a plus! I used the first dose on some bedding – it seemed to come out looking, feeling and smelling clean. I didn’t bother adding any essential oil as the castile soap I was using was scented anyway, so the laundry only had a very subtle scent which I prefer anyway. The following day, I went to put on another load of laundry, this time a coloured load with a fairly stinky t-shirt, and the liquid had completely separated and not even vigorous shaking of the bottle would mix it. I had to give it a really good stir with a spoon and was thinking that it was going to be very impractical if I was going to have to do that every time I wanted to use it. The second load again came out fresh as a daisy, even the stinky t-shirt. By the late evening, the liquid hadn’t separated like it did before, only slightly, and was easily mixed together by giving the jar a quick shake. This was much more what I was expecting, leading me to the conclusion that I didn’t mix it enough first time. I will keep using this for now, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Let me know in the comments if you use an alternative laundry detergent, what are your motivations for doing so?

Thanks for reading!

Cleaning scrub

cleaning scrubI’ve been on a mission for the last few days finding uses for Castile soap in my journey to swap from commercial, chemical loaded household and personal care products to the more natural and homemade. I’ve long used bicarbonate of soda to clean around the house, including the bathroom. I find that it’s great for scrubbing the bath and sink and does wonders on the tiles and grouting, yet is gentle enough not to scratch anything. Whilst browsing Pintrest (some of you may smell a theme developing here!), I spotted this tutorial for a soft scrub using bicarb, liquid castile soap and essential oil. I didn’t have any lemon essential oil and as I have lots of lavender scented castile soap, I used that with some lavender essential oil. I used it for cleaning the bathroom and have no complaints! I adore the scent (which I could change with each batch I make if I want to) and it’s easy to use. I think I will add a bit more of the castile soap to my next batch to make it a bit more creamy, but I don’t think it will change how it works. I’m not sure if the castile soap actually helps with the cleaning process, in fact I would imagine that it could leave a soapy scum over time if it isn’t rinsed off properly, but I like the scent and the anti bacterial properties of the oil.

Home made shampoo update

I used my homemade castile soap shampoo for the first time this morning. Read about making it here. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s a good start! My hair does feel clean, although a little greasy at the roots. homemade shampoo resultsMaybe given my hair type I don’t need as much of the coconut oil (if any) but I’ll keep using this batch for now. I have read about people using apple cider vinegar to rinse their hair afterwards but it seems a bit counter-productive to put something like that on after using something nicely scented and moisturising. I usually only wash my hair every other day so I’d be interested in seeing whether or not I feel it needs washing tomorrow. My hair smells good, there is a slight scent of the essential oils I used (Rosemary and Lavender) but it’s very subtle. So far, I’m quite pleased and can’t wait to try more uses for this fabulous stuff!

Have you tried castile soap shampoo? How did you find it? Please leave your comments and suggestions below.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!




11th June Update…

homemade shampoo 2

The day after…

Definitely an ‘up-do’ day! In this photo, I haven’t actually brushed my hair yet, just quickly put it in a loose bun.

I think it might be a little more greasy than normal the day after washing, but not much more. I’ve heard that your scalp can over produce on the oil front when using harsh shampoos as you keep stripping away the natural oils so more is produced to keep replenishing it. So there is a chance that my hair will become less greasy over time (that’s the theory from the ‘no-poo’ believers anyway).  I really think that I’ll be using this shampoo for a while at least. I’d like to give it a month or so before deciding if it is or isn’t for me.

Green cleaning

Ashley and I have long tried to limit the use of chemical filled cleaners in our home. They are expensive, each one is supposed to be better than anything else (and they tend not to fulfil that promise) and most of us are becoming more and more aware of the detrimental effects that they are having on us and our environment. I have so far managed quite well in choosing chemical free cleaning solutions for the home – you’ve seen my love of bicarbonate of soda! This along with lavender and home made citrus oil based sprays clean my house from top to bottom. I do sometimes get seduced by marketing and end up with a bottle of Flash under the kitchen sink, but this usually gets offered out to friends or family or sits there for a year or two before being binned. I use Ecover products for washing up and the dishwasher and some ‘eco balls’ that were a birthday present a while back for laundry. I’ll get to these in another post but I don’t think that these are long term products for me – Ecover products are a bit on the pricey side and the eco balls need quite a hot wash to be really effective. I have tried soap nuts and I would like to try them again with a bit more knowledge.

My thoughts turned more recently to personal cleaning products; shampoo, body wash, hand soap etc. I have had a bottle of ‘Dr Bronners Organic Liquid Castile Soap’ under the sink for quite a while now. I forget what I originally bought it for (probably something I saw on Pintrest!) but it’s nearly all gone. I had seen that people use this stuff for all sorts of things so I thought I’d give it a go. I love, love, love all things lavender scented and it has antibacterial properties (very useful around the home and bathroom!) so I bought a ltr of the lavender fragrance Dr BrDr Bronners Castile soap for making shampooonners (there are other makes out there) and couldn’t wait to get started!

I found a simple ‘recipe’ for a shampoo here at Premeditated Leftovers. It requires very little and I had everything I needed for it. I used slightly less of the coconut oil than suggested as my hair tends to be on the greasy side anyway. The measurements are in cups (as with most american recipes) and at Christmas when I was making many Pintrest inspired gifts, found this quite frustrating trying to get accurate measurements. My (sometimes!) wonderful husband gave me these sweet measuring cupslittle measuring cups as a Christmas present. I think they were from Lakeland and I use them all the time now. Anyway, the ‘recipe’ was incredibly easy and in no time I had a jar of ‘shampoo’! I was going to put the liquid into a plastic bottle but have read that the essential oils can degrade the bottle, leaching chemicals into your chemical free product, so I have left it in the glass jar for now. I’ll do some more reading on that one. The shampoo mixture smells great and I’m looking forward to using it – I’ll update on how it worked later.




Whilst I had the soap and essential oils out, I thought I’d make a super simple handwash for the kitchen. Just a little of the castile soap (the old, unscented one I had under the sink) in a bottle topped up with water and a few drops of tea tree essential oil added. foaming hand wash We bought one of these foaming dispensers a while back (about £12 from Lakeland I think – I’m honestly not promoting Lakeland or anything!) and it’s very good. We had bought cheap foaming dispensers for making our own handwash in the past, but they broke really quickly. This one works reliably and foams up well, I only wish that the base was more stable – it wobbles about a bit when you press the top down and if it hasn’t got proper suction on the bottom it slides about. It has a little line on the back where you’re supposed to fill up to with normal handwash and another to fill up to with water. I only filled up halfway to the handwash line with the castile soap as it is quite concentrated and so you don’t need as much.

Now to find out more ‘recipes’ for other uses! I’ll keep you updated!

Thanks for reading!


Bicarb cleaning!

Bicarbonate of soda – I love this stuff so much! I try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products and hate the cost of these branded cleaning ‘super products’ (each one being better than everything else and will change your life, apparently). In my opinion, you can’t beat bicarb for cleaning! One of Ashley’s favourite meals is a chicken and rice concoction with cumin and turmeric and the resulting sauce stains the worktops like nothing else! I used to think that the only thing that would shift it was bleach – enter bicarb! A sprinkle of that directly on the work surface, wipe with a damp cloth and boom! it’s gone. It makes light work of cleaning the oven too, mixed into a paste with water, smeared over the dirty oven and left overnight then you only need to wipe it with a cloth in the morning. It does need a good rinse though; the first time I did this I ended up with white specks appearing when I next used the oven. It looked messy, but at least I knew that it wasn’t releasing fumes into my kitchen and tainting the food! There are probably hundreds of uses for bicarb, I won’t list them all! Oh, and check out this tiny Kilner jar that I found – it has a twist top to select different sized pouring holes, perfect for dispensing bicarb! (You might laugh at me, but you know you want one too – I got this in The Range… Go on, treat yourself!)