11: Cats love Cardboard!

P1020934Cats are contrary creatures. How many times have you bought your pampered puss a new toy or cat bed, only to find they’d rather just get in the box? It’s almost become a cliche. I’ve done it lots of times. In fact, we have a box full of little cat toys, plastic mice, little balls with bells in them, that either we’ve bought or have been given as gifts. All completely discarded after a cursory glance. They have more fun playing with a piece of string on the end of a stick – literally! – and that doesn’t cost anything.

So, this one is for all you pet lovers; whether you share your home with a cat, a dog, a guinea pig, some goldfish, a rabbit…Do they really need to be playing with plastic toys? Of course not. If you must buy a toy, look out for one made from natural materials. You can even get ones that are specifically designed to be good for your dog’s teeth. Mind you, I once knew a dog whose favourite toy was a thick broccoli stalk. He could chew on that thing for hours. Luckily, his owner ate a lot of broccoli.

Resolve to only buy your pets toys that aren’t plastic from now on. Better still, make some yourself. There are tons of craft websites that will show you how. Here are 3 DIY dog toy ideas from Country Living magazine to get you started:

If you love your pets that much, you’ll want to help look after the planet. It’s their home too. Happy playing!

10: Have you got a light?

Idea number 10 moves into the realms of light via the sacred flame and things that catch fire generally – Yes, this one is about disposable lighters!

Firstly to the smokers: Of course, I’m not advocating smoking itself, we all know it’s bad for you and those around you, but smoking is not illegal in most countries – yet! And smokers are people too, and as such, can help to reduce some of the single-use plastic in the world.

Of course, smokers are not the only ones who set light to things. Pyromaniacs aside, you might also need to light a candle, or several on a birthday cake (I’m not counting anymore): a barbecue; a camping stove for the adventurers; a log fire, etc. Fire is probably one of the most important inventions that humans ever made. Several million years later, a far more stupid one was invented – the disposable plastic lighter!

If you can afford to smoke (do you know how much a packet of 20 cigarettes costs in the UK these days? Phew!) you can afford to buy a refillable lighter – seriously. Why not go the whole hog and buy a nice, shiny metal one? Gold, if you’re a particularly wealthy smoker. In the long run it will actually save you money. Butane to refill lighters is pretty cheap and lasts for ages. If you’re extra cool, an old rock chick perhaps, invest in a Zippo and impress your friends by trying to refill it at the petrol station while gassing up your Harley Davidson!

In any case, those cheap disposable lighters always run out of flint before they run out of  gas, so you’re not only chucking the plastic away in the bin, but a bit of combustible liquid along with it.

And, for the old school among us, who only light the occasional candle in a power cut, you can’t beat a simple box of matches. Cheap, sustainable and totally biodegradable.

Disclaimer: Just remember to take care around anything flammable. Keep lighters and matches away from children, and also from adults who aren’t safe left in rooms on their own (see the annual Darwin Awards for examples).

9: Let’s air that dirty washing…

This one is really short and simple, and will probably save you money at the same time.

In my continuing hunt for the unnecessary plastic items in my house, I realised that I had been buying laundry liquid in plastic bottles. I can’t remember when I switched from washing powder, but it was ages ago; no doubt because I had been convinced that it was somehow more practical or did the job better. Neither of those things are really true, especially with modern powders that you can even use at low temperatures, so the ads had me fooled. Those naughty tykes in the advertising industry are very clever!

Firstly, my washing is no cleaner using liquid than it is when I use powder. (I checked)
Secondly, powder is far more practical because I can never get that last little bit out of the plastic bottle but I can scoop every last bit of powder out of the box, so it lasts longer.
Thirdly, powder usually comes in a cardboard box, which I can then recycle easily.
Fourthly, washing powder (especially if it’s a supermarket own-brand) is much, much cheaper than laundry liquid so I actually save money.
Fifthly……I can’t actually think of another reason. I just wanted to type ‘fifthly’ because I’d never done it before.

So, I switched back to washing powder a few months ago, and my laundry is doing just fine. Next I need to find fabric conditioner that doesn’t come in plastic bottles. I shall post  on that after some more research.

Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t forget to buy wooden pegs instead of plastic ones the next time you need some. They last longer too!