Environment, Uncategorized

Reducing plastics – 10 tips for beginners

Last week, it was announced that a new ‘continent’ was discovered in the Caribbean. A continent made of discarded plastic bags and bottles, cups and cutlery, wrappings and cheap plastic tat. Square miles of trash filling the ocean, poisoning fish and by extension, us. It is IMPERATIVE that we reduce our dependency on plastic and get rid of our ‘throw away’ culture. Being a mother of three children, living in a wealthy country, I am well aware that I am a big part of the problem. I am also very aware that the planet that I will be leaving to my children in 50 years time is not one I would like to inhabit. Indeed, it might not be habitable at all. I have gradually reduced my consumption of plastic over the last couple of years, without making too much of an effort, but I am really determined that this year I will make a radical change and ensure that I don’t contribute to this ecological disaster anymore. I want to stop being so wasteful, and become resourceful instead.  I know I am not going to become a vegan hermit living in the mountains in a days, but I want to take clear steps to improve my lifestyle and become greener. Here are my 10 first steps – some of them I am already doing 100% of the time, others only partly. Are you in with me?

Image result for plastic caribbean

–  No one-use plastic bags. At all. Ever.

At the moment I have 4-5 canvas bags that I keep in my handbag, in my pram, in my car, so that I can use them for a quick shop at the supermarket, or when I go to the local market. For my weekly shop, I have big, IKEA-style bags that I pop in the trolley. What I need to resolve though is plastic bag use at the butcher’s/fishmonger’s, as they usually wrap produce in plastic.

– No bottled water

This one is fairly easy. As a mum of 3, I used to buy bottled water on almost every trip out. Even if I brought water with me, it just wasn’t enough, and I don’t like re-using plastic water bottles as apparently plastic can seep through the water. I bought a big glass bottle that is protected by a silicone sleeve, and cost me under £10. Mine is for TKMaxx and is similar to this one. It’s perfect because it is easy to clean and contains enough water for us, and I can refill it outside if needed. My kids still have plastic (reusable) sippy cups, which I am planning to replace with Klean Kanteen ones or similar.

The next step is to simply stop buying any drink in plastic bottles. The Guardian reports that a million plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world, and only a tiny percentage are recycled. The rest end in landfill, or in the sea. For juices, get carton packs (although some are coated in plastic so not ideal) or get a cheap juicer. For milk, some local milkmen use glass bottles (I am looking for one actually, any recommendation?).

-No plastic cups/ cutlery/ plates

I don’t like these anyway and never buy them. I’m in at an event where they are being use, I will just avoid them and try to find other containers to use. For picnics, I will bring reusable containers/ tumblers, and regular cutlery. No need for plastic stuff.

Also, straws! Yes, no more straws. No, you don’t really need them. I am not sure who thought they were a good idea in the first place. If you do really actually need them, don’t worry, Klean Kanteen is your friend again! They are not cheap, but will save you a lifetime of buying straws. Some shops also have paper ones.

-No gum

Gum is a gross habit, and yes, gum contains plastic. Think about it: you chew on it for 5 minutes, spit it out, it stays out there for five years. That means there must be a huge iceberg of discarded gum somewhere. Just cut it out!

If you are really addicted to gum and struggle to quit, there are apparently a few plastic-free alternatives on the market, according to A Plastic free Life. But really, do you need that?

– Avoid fruits and veg wrapped in plastic/cellophane

I am trying to get most of my fruit and veg from the market so no unnecessary wrapping. However, it is usually not organic. Organic fruits in the supermarket on the other hand are often wrapped in plastic, which is really annoying me as it feels counter-productive! I don’t know what is worst, plastic wrappings, or pesticides destroying the soil? I’m also looking at where produce come from, and try to buy local and seasonal. I’m still working my way around that one, and will probably sign up for a veg box to be delivered at home. For dry items such as lentils or pasta, buy in bulk or find a zero-waste shop where you can bring your own containers.

-Avoid shower gel and hand wash liquid

Soap is your friend! Yes, bar soap, not the liquid one with tons of additives. That way, no more ugly plastic bottles in your bathroom. If you don’t like soap scum, or find your soap getting soggy, get a proper soap dish with a grille, so that the soap keeps dry. Also sharing soap is NOT unhygienic; in fact it is much more hygienic than a soap bottle that has been touched by many dirty hands! Simply rinse after use. If you are feeling brave, try making your own soap, it’s easy, fun and rewarding, and it makes a nice gift.

You are feeling extra brave? Bin the shampoo bottle and use a shampoo bar instead. I am planning to try the Lush ones soon. You can also use ghassoul, if it works for your hair (it doesn’t really for mine as it’s thin, but give it a go).

Same for your deodorant, bin the plastic, get an alum stone.

– No tea bags!

That’s a weird one isn’t it? Are you all looking at your tea bag and wondering how on earth there is plastic in there? Well yes, some brands use polypropylene to seal tea bags, which means that they also cannot be composted. I’m sure you don’t want that sipping in your tea! There is a great article over at Moral Fibres listing which brands do and don’t use plastic in their tea bags; Pukka Tea seems like the best option. Otherwise, do as I did and go back to an old-style tea infuser like that little guy here, and use loose leaf tea. It tastes so much better, and it is so much more enjoyable. The only issue is that now I make myself a whole teapot, rather than a mug…

Stainless Steel Loose Tea & Coffee Strainer Ball

– Make your own detergents, laundry soap etc

I am not really good at that, I’ll admit. I have my homemade cleaning spray that I use for everything (simply vinegar and water, with a dash of dishwashing liquid and a few drops of tea tree essential oil), and I use Moroccan black soap diluted in water to clean the floor. However, I still use bleach and other sprays for more heavy duty cleaning. I am pretty sure I could manage with just bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, and will give it a go. For my laundry, I try making my own ivy laundry liquid but it didn’t really work. I am not super keen on using soap because I am worried about soap scum built up, especially with washable nappies. My options are a laundry egg (any good?), or buy from a ‘green’ brand such as Ecover. Ecover sells wholesale, which seems like a good option to reduce packaging. Other brands such as Reyouzable let you bring your own bags and bottles to fill.

– Think about the use of plastic in your home

As much as I would love my kid’s to have only beautiful handmade Grimm toys and Ostheimer figurines, we do have Lego, Playmobil and similar. What I completely refuse to buy is cheap plastic tat from the pound shop that they will play with for a week and then discard. Some of our Playmobil come from charity shops, so I feel that at least they got a good, long life. When we are done playing with them, we will donate to friends or charity. Other items such as toothbrushes can be replaced with bamboo ones or siwak sticks for instance.

-When there is no other option…

Of course most of us do end up with plastic waste at the end of the day. Make sure you dispose of it properly so that it can be recycled. In my local council for instance, we have recycling bins but they only accept some plastics and not others. For instance, plastic bottles, box and tubs are ok, but plastic bags, clingfilm and bags of frozen food need to go in the general waste bin. Check which bin to use!

Image result for recycling bins


Health and Beauty, Uncategorized

Easy gentle almond milk soap


I have been wanting to try a milky soap for ages, and this recipe sounded just perfect. I used almond milk, almond oil and shea butter to make an extra rich, extra gentle soap for sensitive skins. I added a few drops of essential oil but the scent is barely noticeable, and it’s of course optional for children or very sensitive skins. It is a very simple recipe and didn’t take me more than 45 mins to make. I used a little plastic mold that I bought online, so I ended up with 9 tiny little soaps that are perfect for gifts, guests’ bathrooms or wedding favours.

Here is the recipe I used, using the Sage website to calculate the amount of lye needed.

Ingredients needed (for 9 little bars):

  • 200g  Shea Butter
  • 150mL Almond oil
  • 100 mL Almond milk
  • 44 g Sodium Hydroxide

essential oils (optional)

I buy organic ingredients whenever possible and make soaps from my family and friends. I like making sure I don’t put toxic chemical stuff on my skin, or worse my children’s! Even popular soaps like Dove are packed with chemicals, detergents and perfumes that are too acidic for the skin and are bad for the environment.

Start by making the lye solution combining the sodium and the milk, wearing gloves and glasses as it can be dangerous. Always put the sodium into the liquid (milk in our case), never the over way around. I use a think glass container for this and it gets very hot. Set aside and leave to cool.

Then, combine the oil and the shea butter and heat gently in a bain-marie until the butter has completely melted. Take off from the fire and leave to cool at room temperature.


Once both liquids have cooled, combine them and keep stirring until the mixture ‘traces’. Tracing means that it is thick enough to support marks for a few minutes. I often use a hand mixer at this stage, as it can take about 15- 20minutes to get to this stage. The mix should the same consistency as a homemade custard, thick and yellow.


At this stage, I added about 20 drops of lavender essential oil, but it is optional. Do not use if the soap if for a young child.

Then, pour into your mold: you could use silicon molds, glass pots or a cake mold, be creative! Here is mine, it is a square mold that I bought online to make 9 little soaps.


Leave to set for a couple of days until the soap has hardened. Then, remove from the mold and cut into the desired shapes.

Leave in a airy place to cure: this takes 4 to 6 weeks and you should use the soap before that as it will be too aggressive for the skin.

TA-DA! Wrap in a pretty piece of soap paper and there are ready to go!



Health and Beauty, Uncategorized

A great organic lip balm for the cold days!

Salaam alaykoum, Peace be upon you all!

I made myself a batch of mandarin lip balm this week, and since I’m very satisfied with it, I am going to share the recipe! It’s very very easy (once you have sourced all the ingredients), and it keeps my lips soft and moisturised in the freezing weather. No chapped lips for me this year inshallah! I even use it on my face as I have a sensitive skin, and I get red dry patches because of the cold.

Anyway, enough talking, let’s get cooking! This recipe will make about 100ml of lip balm, so I got 10 little tips of 10ml each. You will need the following ingredients, preferably organic:

15g Yellow beeswax

50ml Apricot Kernel Oil

15g Cocoa Butter

25g Shea Butter

Just mix everything in a glass jug and cook in a Bain-marie ( which means place it into a pan of boiling water), and wait until it has melted into a liquid before taking it out of the fire. You can also do in the microwave, but it’s more fun to do it this way! 

My little tins cooling down!

You can then add essential oils of your choice: I used Tea Tree oil because of its antiseptic qualities (about 20 drops) and Mandarin (about 40 drops) for its soothing and uplifting qualities, and because of its great smell. Mix with a spoon and pour into your containers before it cools down.


You can easily modify the recipe according to your needs: divide by ten if you only need one tin of lip balm, replace the Apricot Kernel oil by Almond oil if it is easier to find, or use 40g of Shea butter instead of using two different kinds. You can also use Mango butter which is very moisturising and a good anti-wrinkle.

My finished little products, ready to be used!
My finished little products, ready to be used!

A word of caution: I completely understand that you people are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to make your own gorgeous, precious, organic lip balm  when you could just pop in your local supermarket and get a cheap lipstick. The problem is that most of what you will find will actually dry out your lips even more rather than moisturising and soothing chapped lips. That’s because they prevent the air from passing, and because some ingredients such as alcohol, menthol and petroleum are aggressive for the skin. So please check the ingredients before you hand your money!

Health and Beauty, Uncategorized

Two super quick and cheap tips to treat your hair!

I collected two beauty tips from my gorgeous sister in law who has the most shiny, healthy looking hair and doesn’t look anything close to her real age.

First, a hair mask using olive oil. I have written at length about the health and cosmetic benefits of olive oil, but she gave me a recipe also using garlic. Now I know this sound unusual, but garlic actually has many cleansing and antibiotic qualities and is very efficient as a treatment against acne and fungal infections. Basically she crushes a whole bulb of garlic in a mortar, and then leaves it decant with about 200mL of olive oil for a few weeks, the longer the better. She then removes the garlic: the oil has been infused with its essence and she thus gets a bottle of hair oil that she can use for months. To use, she simply applies on dry hair, warming the oil in her hands first, and leaves for 3-4h before washing off.
Image                                            Garlic bulbs: full of health benefits

The second tip is very useful for those who have oily hair or dandruffs: lemon is the most natural remedy. Its acidity works as an astringent and purifies the scalp, and it is extremely simple to use: massage a good few drops of lemon juice on your scalp, or better, use half a lemon straight on the head. Then rinse off, and voilà! Lemon juice is also used to whiten the teeth, applied with a cotton stick, but this shoudln’t be done more often than weekly because it can weaken the teeth’s enamel.


Argan Oil: the liquid gold…

When I go to visit my husband’s family in Morocco, I always make sure to buy a little bottle of Argan Oil. It has become increasingly popular in recent years and  is now used in a large number of beauty products and institutes. The argan tree grows almost exclusively in the south of Morocco and its health benefits are well documented: it helps reduce cholesterol, and it is a cure against rhumatism and arthritis. Used as a cosmetic product, it helps to fortify the hair and nails, and mositurize the skin (as well as reduce acne!) . I simply use a few drops of oil and massage it onto my face for a few minutes. You can rinse off, or leave it until it has completely penetrated the skin. It is also a great foundation to apply make up.

Moroccan Argan oil- The liquid gold

For use on the hair, again I take a few drops and apply on the hair, usually 30mins before washing it off. It gives it a great, healthy glow. For the nails, it is good to mix the oil with lemon juice and leave on the nails for a while to strenghten then. And for you mothers, it is also great to prevent or reduce stretch marks, or scars.
However, make sure that you buy products that are 100% pure Argan oil, because it is often mixed with cheaper oils and can irritate the skin. Yes, Argan oil is expensive, but as I said you only need a few drops on the skin or hair to reap its benefits! A small bottle will last you for months. Next time you see North African ladies with their gorgeous, clear skin and luscious hair, you will know what’s their secret!