The Mrs Hinch Effect: The internet, our toilets, the planet

The power of the internet never ceases to amaze me.

Thanks to the Instagram account of Sophie Hinchcliffe or, as we all know her, Mrs Hinch, I went from someone who did cleaning out of necessity, to someone who wanted to throw Zoflora on every surface in my house, stuff my pillows with dryer sheets soaked in fabric conditioner and buy a sonic cleaning brush. I don't know what happened. One day I just found myself watching her stories and suddenly I was hooked.

And I'm certainly not alone. Dubbed "The Hinch Army", her following has grown at an absolutely incredible rate (a rate that I for one am very jealous of) and she is quickly approaching the big 1 milli!

I don't think it's hard to see why. Her enthusiasm for scrubbing the loo is infectious beyond belief and the tips she shares actually make housework fun. Or at least a hell of a lot more bearable. That's why I think Mrs Hinch is bloody glorious. I've loved seeing her success and I have absolutely no doubts that her career as an influencer is just beginning. However, I do have my problems with this new online movement. But don't jump in the comments to shout at me; I promise I'm not just a #HinchHater.

Is promoting a zero waste lifestyle elitist?

A few months ago, I participated in Plastic Free July, a whole 31 days of using as little disposable plastic as possible. Preferably none at all. After months and months of dipping my toe into living a low-waste lifestyle (refusing all disposable straws and feeling pretty smug about my efforts to save the turtles), I decided that it was time to dive straight in. It was time to hold myself accountable as an individual and to stop telling myself that I "can't possibly make a difference when Dedra down the road never puts a recycling bin out on collection day".

It was a month of no excuses.

And trust me, I came up with my fair share of them that I had to ignore along the way: There are no bulk shops near me. I'm travelling this weekend. I already accidentally used one piece of plastic, so I may as well buy myself a ready meal. Each of these thoughts ran through my head on an almost daily basis and it took constant effort to not give in and go for the easy option. Yet, there was one excuse that came up again and again that, of all of them, actually held some weight: I don't have the money to sustain this lifestyle.

I know, I know. I'm committing the cardinal sin of zero wasters by suggesting that it's an expensive way to live. I can already hear people shouting, "BUT IN THE LONG RUN IT'S CHEAPER TO BUY SOMETHING THAT LASTS" and "BUYING IN BULK IS FAR CHEAPER THAN BUYING IN A SUPERMARKET" at their computer screens. I can't and don't want to suggest that either of those statements aren't true. Of course it's less expensive to buy something which is better quality that you won't need to replace every few months. Of course buying 60 rolls of toilet paper works out cheaper than 4 packs of loo roll per sheet and uses less packaging. Those are simple facts.

However, I haven't been able to get rid of this icky feeling since I finished (and failed at) Plastic Free July. As inspiring as the whole process was and as much as it encouraged me to make huge lifestyle changes, it did make me realise that living waste-free isn't nearly as accessible as the pretty profiles on the internet want us to think. Can anybody and everybody make positive lifestyle shifts that benefit our planet and reduce plastic pollution? Yes, and we should all recognise that it's our responsibility to do so. Is it possible for anybody and everybody to live a completely zero waste lifestyle? I'm going to have to hesitantly say "no" to that one.

As far as I can tell, the belief that everyone can and should live zero waste comes from a two-fold place of privilege: Having excess time and having excess money.

Let's talk about the money thing first. As I said, I totally agree with the argument that living zero-waste works out either cheaper or the same price as conventional living in the long run. But that's the key phrase that everyone is using when they're talking about these matters: "In the long run". Being able to invest is a privilege, and a big one at that. Suggesting that someone should be able to spend £10 on a stainless-steel container instead of a plastic one from Pound Land because "after 10 months you'll have ended up spending the same anyway" is the small-scale version of telling someone that buying a house works out a hell of a lot cheaper than renting for ten years. People know this stuff. It's common sense. However, that doesn't mean that everyone has the money to go making those sorts of investments. If you need somewhere to live right now but you don't have a £50,000 deposit sitting in the bank, you have no choice but to rent. If you need somewhere to store your sandwiches right now, but you don't have £10 spare in your budget to spend on the eco-friendly option, you buy the bloody plastic. Because that's just what you need to do.

On top of that, buying “in bulk” certainly didn't work out cheaper for me throughout Plastic Free July. I'm sure that this isn't the case for everyone, but getting to a bulk shop just wasn't all that accessible. My nearest plastic-free shop was over an hour's drive away. If I had gone there (which I didn't because using that much fuel for the sake of saving the planet seemed like too big of a contradiction to me), the pricing would've probably been slightly higher simply because it's an independent shop and I would've spent at least £10 on travel. That's great if you can manage it, but I was a fresh graduate who just didn't have that sort of money going spare.

So, yes, money is and obstacle when it comes to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Now onto the one that I think people consider even less than money: Time.

In my experience, living zero-waste takes more time than living conventionally. It just does. For me, it's totally worth it and I'm more than happy to give a few more minutes a day (and money, if I have it) to making sure that the way I'm living is as harmless as possible. But that simply cannot be the case for everybody. There are people all over the world, including here in the UK, who do not have the time to go between three shops to find which sells rice with the least packaging. As much as it would be great if the minimum and living wages allowed people to have spare time to focus their energies on causes they're passionate about, that's just not the reality. As it stands, people continue to have to work ridiculously long hours, whilst still finding time to do all of the "life admin" that comes with being an adult. Again, I'm sure that a lot of people would argue that it's only initially a time-consuming lifestyle: Once you've found the shops, the products, the system that works for you, you're sorted. However, that also relies on people having a certain amount of free time to begin with.

The argument that you "make time" for things that you care enough about is only slightly true. When you have the choice between working so that you can afford to live or cleaning so that you're staying healthy or, dare I say, doing something actually fun for the sake of your mental health, I think that should take priority.

Of course, this leaves us with the same massive problem we started with. We all know that plastic is causing us more problems than we ever thought possible. If David Attenborough taught us anything, it's that there needs to be a big change. Recently news has landed that we will soon be past the point of no return in terms of climate change.

So, believe me when I say that I want everyone to do as much as they physically can to change the way they're living for the better. I want everyone who can live a zero-waste lifestyle to live a zero-waste lifestyle. I also massively respect the people that promote it because, without them, I probably wouldn't have even considered it a possibility to live without plastic. They're absolute eco warriors who are doing undeniably incredible things. However, I stand by my point that it is not possible for everyone to completely forgo plastic in every area of their life, though I do believe it’s possible for everyone to lessen their usage.

If we want to see huge, positive changes, the responsibility cannot solely lie with individuals. Non-plastic alternatives need to be more accessible, regardless of how much spare time we have or how much money we make. I'm talking about big business making shifts. Huge corporations can afford to make changes and they should be the ones that take the financial hit in order to positively influence this whole toxic system.

I guess it comes down to this: Everyone has a responsibility to do what they can to slow down the decline of our environment. However, not everyone has equal opportunities to do so.

Feminists: Don't give your money to Topshop. Spend it here instead.

This morning I woke up and was reminded that I follow exactly the right kind of people on Twitter. My 8am timeline was flooded with a butt tonne of totally justified anger. And that much anger, that early in the morning takes a hell of a lot of effort, so my pre-coffee self knew that something must be up. The dozens of tweets I saw were targeted at Topshop and its founded Phillip Green, following an event yesterday that proved yet again that the chain doesn't actually care all that much about women, despite appearances.

On Friday, Penguin announced a collaboration with Topshop to celebrate the release of Scarlett Curtis' new book "Feminists Don't Wear Pink". There was set to be a pop up shop in the flagship Oxford Circus store which not only sold the book (a collection of essays by inspiring women about what feminism means to them), but other products, with the profits going towards the charity Girl Up. Girl Up is a foundation that supports and empowers women all over the world to help them become leaders for change and gender equality. And yet, despite how undeniably positive those movements are, Penguin soon after tweeted that Topshop had decided to remove the pop up, just 20 minutes after it had been assembled. They stated that, "This book aims to prove that the word ‘feminist’ is accessible to everyone. Today’s events suggest there is still some work to do."

Topshop Feminists don't wear pink pop up shop

A menstrual cup update: The Pros and Cons

Over two years ago I wrote a post all about why I bought a menstrual cup and why I thought every period-having individual should join me and give them a try. I spoke about how it pretty much trumped every other  product out there for me in terms of looking after my health, my wallet and the planet. And man did it go down well. Since hesitantly pressing publish - "people from my secondary school follow me on here...Won't they think I'm a hippie weirdo?" - that post has had over 6,000 views. It remains my most popular one to date.

Who knew that so many of you were also tired of pad rash and pulling out half-dry tampons? 

However, when I wrote that post I hadn't actually used the cup yet. I was in love with it in theory, but was yet to get used to the practicalities. So, I thought I'd come back, riding the coat tails of that first post's success, to give you a bit of a cup update. A cupdate, if you will. Spoiler alert: I'm still, and probably always will be, a fan of the menstrual cup. It is my silicone queen! But it's not all "cycling through a sun-filled park in white shorts to a soundtrack of 90s R&B". Whilst using a menstrual cup definitely has it's many, many benefits, it also has some downfalls. 

I'm not here to be a walking, talking and blogging advert for using a cup (though, granted, I do sound like that 90% of the time). I'm here to be honest with you about my own experiences so that you can figure out if it's for you. 

Let's have a chat about the pros and cons, my friends.

3 very specific things I listen to before bed

I'm just going to come out and be honest: This post might not be very useful to you and it probably won't miraculously help you to have better sleep.

If I was a decent lifestyle blogger who wanted to make this post SEO friendly and clickable, I'd be saying something here about how I used to struggle with falling to sleep until these "5 SUPER simple tips" cured me. But, my sleep deprived friends, this ain't a post like that. There are plenty of those already on the Internet and I don't think that I have anything particularly revolutionary to add, so let me quickly summaries the general gist of a lot of them for you here:

1. Don't use your phone an hour before bed. Blue light is the devil.
2. Learn some sort of yogic breathing technique to piss off your partner with.
3. Buy a £50 sleep spray.
4. Drink some lemon water because apparently that helps with literally every ailment known to man.

Now onto the totally self-indulgent and ultra specific bit.

I'm just as perpetually tired as you are. I also like to drink a big ol' cup of coffee as soon as I wake up. But it just so happens that I've found some things that I like to listen to before bed and that, occasionally, actually help to move the sleep process along. When I do finally shake myself out of the Twitter-Instagram-Whatsapp-Repeat cycle at bedtime, I usually plug in my headphones and put on something that's not too over stimulating but is stimulating enough to distract me from my thoughts. I've always liked to listen to something whilst lying in bed (when I was little I had a bright yellow tape player that I used to play Spot's Magical Christmas all year round), but I think I've truly got it sussed over the last few months. I've figured out what kinds of sounds relax me and whose voices I find soothing.

Cruelty Free Cleaning on a Budget

When I made a vow to myself a couple of years ago to only buy cruelty free products, I didn't realise how far reaching that promise would be. I thought it would mean looking for a bunny symbol when I bought mascara and getting on with my day. I never even considered for a second that it would influence something so unglamourous as cleaning my loo!

The sad truth is that the vast majority of conventional, household cleaning products are tested on animals in some capacity. Whilst a ban was created in the UK in 2015 to stop companies testing the "finished" cleaning products on animals, that doesn't (and most likely hasn't) stopped them testing the ingredients under certain circumstances. So, for anyone looking to live a cruelty free life, it's still important to check the labels.

Over the past few years I've seen the rise in brands that are embracing the "cruelty free", "vegan" and "eco-friendly" labels. And that's great. Accessibility is so important. However, a lot of those products are considerably more expensive than their conventional alternatives. So, whilst you might be able to find them in the shop, their prices don't exactly mean that they're accessible to everyone. And, as a student and now a freelancer, I know just how tempting it is to ignore your morals for a few minutes so that you can buy the cheapest washing up liquid! Trust me, I've been there. I have the cleaning cupboard to prove it.

Fortunately after many a shopping trip I've figured out the best, cheapest and kindest cleaning products for anyone who wants a sparkling home on a budget. I thought I would save you the energy (and the streaky surfaces!) by sharing some of my favourite bargain CF brands and products with you.

Starting my Zero Waste Kitchen: The things I own and the things I want to own

If I'm being completely honest, when I started living away from home the last thing on my mind was having a sustainable kitchen. My thought process was less "let me see how I can invest in life long pieces that are as harmless as possible to the planet and the people that made them" and more "holy shit I have to buy literally everything a person needs to survive! Give me all of the cheap plastic  please and thank you!" Ikea, B&Ms and Pound Land truly were my saviours. They meant that I was able to stock up on the tonnes of kitchen stapels without having to remortgage a house I didn't own and without having to worry that anything got broken when my flatmates came in from a night out.

However, as you might have seen over on my Instagram this weekend that I've recently moved into my own little space with my boyfriend. Yep, that's right my friends, we have a whole fridge to ourselves. We have amounts of storage that Student Beth could only dream of! And that also means that I've finally been able to take the plunge and invest in some of the Zero-Waste Kitchen essentials that I've converted on many a pinning session.

Starting my zero-waste kitchen will definitely be a journey. Since a lot of sustainable things are more expensive than their less ethical alternatives, it's going to be a case of slowly but surely accumulating what I want. I've already bought a few things and I've certainly got a few things on a wishlist waiting for me.

So, in the hopes that this will inspire you to make some simple swaps in your kitchen, or to give you an idea of where to start in making it less wasteful, I thought I'd share those things I already own and those things I want to own in transitioning to zero waste.