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Plastic Free July: Choose bar soap

Long ago, when I lived in Durban, a friend and I would go for coffee in the Botanic Gardens. We would picnic: a flask of espresso and ceramic cups, carefully packed; biscuits, homemade or bakery- bought, in a tin. I remember sitting on the edge of a fountain and looking at the water lilies in the pond, people watching (we saw so many wedding photos being taken there) and reading magazines.

It wasn’t fancy, it was just nice, and it wouldn’t have occurred to us to get a take-away coffee when we were so good at making it ourselves.

I think about that now when I see or read about single use plastics.

Did you take the plastic free July challenge?

According to, the top four single use plastic items in our bins are: plastic bags, water bottles, plastic straws, and take away coffee cups.

In 2021, there is no reason to still be using any of these things, but they are ubiquitous and a quick stop gap if you’ve forgotten your go-to fabric bag, bottle or travel mug. Is the solution then to up our game, take control and if it’s been forgotten go with-out, or to rely on big business to stop providing them? I think we need to do both of these things: we need to be better prepared for life in the world, but we also need to hold big business accountable, not only by choosing with our wallets and not buying what they’re selling.

I find that my downfall is water – I never seem to correctly judge how much we’ll need out and

about, and even with our own bottles it’s often impossible to find places to fill them.

So that’s my challenge, not only for July, but for this year: to take control of how my family is

prepared to have what we need and what we want when we aren’t at home: water, coffee, snacks and storage. Bottles, cups, tins and bags. How hard can it be? Expensive at first, to be sure, but a one-off payment vs £4 a coffee every time? And of course, that smug feeling of ‘doing something for the environment’ is priceless.

If you’re looking for a challenge, moving to bar soap is something everyone can do if they are

concerned about their single use plastics. Don’t buy liquid hand soap or body wash, do it the old- fashioned way. The benefits are endless.

If you’re concerned about the environment, by choosing a bar of soap you are already not choosing one more plastic bottle, parts of which can’t be recycled and will probably end up in landfill or littering the beach. Bar soap usually has less packaging than a liquid soap, and more often than not recyclable or compostable packaging (like Shepherds Cottage Soaps is). If looked after, by keeping it dry in between uses, bar soap also lasts longer than liquid soap.

If you’re concerned about your health and well-being, handmade bar soaps, made with a

combination of natural oils and butters, clean very well with out stripping your skin of it’s own

natural oils. Mostly, they don’t contain harmful chemicals, preservatives or fragrances.

Next week, I’m going to talk more about the interesting and beneficial ingredients I use in the soaps I make, all of which are chosen to add something special to each bar: nourishment for your skin, exfoliation, a beautiful colour, a little bit of Lismore. But first, I’ll make a pot of coffee, pack it up, and go find somewhere in the garden to sit.

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