Not even water??!!

Ramadan. The holiest month in the Islamic calendar. There is so much to be said about this month that brings excitement and expands further than just fasting – which is usually what people think about when they hear about Ramadan.

When is Ramadan?

This year Ramadan begins on 14 April – it moves ahead ten days each year so luckily it’s not landing on the hottest or longest days of the year. We planned months ago about how we could make the most of this month from a dietary perspective, eat healthily and perhaps lose some weight in the process. It didn’t happen, it never does, but at least our intentions were there!

Because of lockdown we won’t be allowed to break our fasts with our family and friends this year, nor did we last year. It’s a real shame because Ramadan is about sharing these moments with our loved ones, but we make the most of technology and share these moments virtually.

Time to refuel

We have until sunrise to refuel by eating and drinking all of those delicious looking meals we saw on Instagram during daylight hours when our tummies were rumbling. We have from 2.50am until approximately 5.00am to eat and pray the first prayer of the day – the exact time for each prayer changes every day and we are lucky to have the benefit of apps on our phone to keep us right. Our body clocks aren’t tuned for this, my alarm is set for 6.30am for work but rather than dreading it, I think of the benefits.

Our fast begins. No eating, drinking, swearing or complaining – it’s effectively a fast of the body, mind and tongue. Give to charity and complete at least our five prayers in the day. Ramadan is seen as test and a time for self-reflection and spiritual growth as well as a reminder to us about what we have, which we often take for granted, and what is truly important.

My choice to fast

I think about how lucky I have been – I think of my childhood and the days in school when I wasn’t obliged to fast but I did it because I felt I should. We all wanted to be grown-ups back then. I abstained from eating in school and my peers would look on in pity as I tried to reassure them I was ok. My friends offered me a chip and promised ‘they wouldn’t tell’ – I chuckled and loved that they cared, but how would I begin to explain that cheating defeats the purpose?

Looking forward to Iftar

I am a creature of habit – drinking a cup of tea is imbedded in my usual morning routine – but I weaned myself off this two weeks in advance of Ramadan to avoid the dreaded headaches. I look at the clock and my husband is counting down the number of hours until Iftar (the first meal after breaking the fast). This will be approximately 7pm today and we have hours to prepare our meal. But naturally, our stomachs have shrunk so we set our expectations too high and can’t possibly finish all of the food we had hours to prepare.

Sharing with a grateful heart

Nothing gives me more joy than to share Ramadan with non-muslims, so I carefully package leftovers and share them with our neighbours. Who else can we help, is there anyone struggling out there who we can help? I love how fasting shifts my mind-set to consider others before myself.

I read my final prayer of the day and read books to learn more about my faith. Nothing gives me more peace than this time of the day when I can pray for my family and friends and trust that everything will be okay.

The Eid celebration

Tomorrow it starts again, another detox of the mind and body with the intention of coming out of the other end stronger. I use this time for the celebration of Eid al-fitr (which basically means the festival of breaking the fast). Planning and preparation for Eid is always something I look forward to, it mirrors the same excitement Christmas does for Christians as we exchange gifts and eat far too much! Our families are huge, so we use the ‘Secret Santa’ idea to make it more fun and feasible.

Not all Muslims fast during Ramadan

Of course, not all Muslims have to practice fasting during Ramadan – you must be fit and healthy enough to undertake it and children only start fasting when they hit puberty. You also take time off fasting during pregnancy, menstrual cycles or if you are breastfeeding. Many elderly people are unable to fast due to their medication, for example. Your first Ramadan is exciting, it’s something you want to tell everyone about and yet find it difficult to explain. Our mums send us to school with a small snack (just in case).

Fasting in other religions

Interestingly, most world religions mention fasting somewhere in their doctrine – be that Lent in Christianity or Yom Kippur in Judaism and from what I understand, it has the same principles: discipline, appreciation and self-reflection. Outside of religion, fasting has also been incorporated into fitness plans and encouraged a massive ‘detox’ movement in the western world too.

From an Islamic perspective, there are number of guideline principles to follow:

  • Fasting begins when a hilal crescent moon is sighted. However, every year there is a bit of confusion as to when this date is – most UK Muslims follow the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s religious leaders. The 30 days of Ramadan that follow represent the 30 chapters of the Qur’an that appeared to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which is dictated by the position of the moon.
  • As well as fasting between sunrise and sunset, Muslims must also abstain from smoking and sex. If someone intentionally has daytime sex during Ramadan, they must perform kaffaarah (expiation of the sin) and fast for 60 days or, if unable to, feed 60 poor people.
  • If someone eats or drinks because they forgot or were coerced, the fast is still valid but they must continue to abstain.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a polite greeting used during the holy month – ‘Ramadan Mubarak’, which means ‘Have a blessed Ramadan’.

I just want to go to Soho on a Monday morning

Before Miss Coronavirus embarked on an extensive world tour that would give even Cher a run for her money, my absolute favourite pastime was going to Soho on a Monday morning.

I’ve said this a few times by now to different people, and each time I’m met with a ‘Why Monday? Monday’s are the worst’ kind of look. Well, Mondays are actually the best.

If you get on the 14 bus around 10am, it’ll take you straight into Piccadilly once the morning commute has passed its peak. You can then slink off the bus and immediately get lost in the tiny side streets between China Town, Piccadilly and Soho. If you go in spring, the mornings are dewy, fresh and bright meaning it’s the perfect weather to sit in Golden Square and have an Oat cappuccino from the Veggie Pret on the corner dahhling.

I used to stop in at Fiorucci, browsing completely uninterrupted which made me feel like a celebrity, especially when the staff learned my name. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d peruse Good News Soho and buy one of their outrageous fashion and music magazines, or thumb through the records at Sister Ray and Reckless Records on Berwick Street.

The reason I’m telling you this is because it makes my soul so unbelievably happy.

I moved to London in the hopes of finding somewhere like Soho where I’d feel connected to the queer community. Historically, London has always embodied the queer spirit – from accommodating the Gateways Club (the world’s longest running lesbian nightclub -1936 to 1985) to the Blitz Kids in Covent Garden co-hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan from 1979/80, and a whole lot more. London feels like the queer homecoming I’d always dreamed of. For me, a queer kid who grew up in the countryside, the capital represented the soul of gay liberation, and I wasn’t wrong by any stretch, but I was definitely wearing my rose-tinted glasses.

I’m still haunted by my first threatening homophobic encounter in London. In my experience, in the countryside it never got to a place of violence. You’d be called various names, bullied, maybe shoved, but it never got to a place where you’d be scared for your life. That doesn’t mean to say it can’t happen – hateful acts of ignorance can happen anywhere.

That very first time, I was thankfully with one of my best friends Sue, a trans girl from Derby, and another cis girlfriend whom we’d met at uni. I won’t go into details about the event, but we quickly found ourselves in a highly threatening situation in a very public space outnumbered by a group of guys. I’ve turned this over and over in my head for the three years since it happened, and two things stay firmly planted in my mind.

Number one – although it was probably mine and Sue’s obvious flamboyance that caught the lads attention, our girlfriend who had been with us was equally ‘in trouble.’ It made me realise that if these ignorant homophobes had no respect for queers, they most certainly didn’t have any respect for women either. In that moment I saw firsthand the solidarity between women and queer folk – shared experiences of belittling and terror that both parties have, out of necessity, become accustomed to. I am so grateful for the woman in my life, they have given me strength, inspiration and motivation to be the person I am today. Many women share our queer spirit and for that they are forever a part of our community.

Number two – as I previously mentioned, this was a VERY public place. Not one person who witnessed our encounter with the boys bat an eye. Not one of the many adults in the vicinity came to help or defend three 18 year olds in immediate danger. We were kids back then. It still makes me exhale heavily – I was so disappointed and disillusioned. Those rose-tinted glasses cracked that day.

I realise now these experiences have placed a hot pink fire in my soul which has ultimately made me embrace my queerness and non-binary identity louder and prouder than ever. The queer spirit is made of hardy stuff. It’s not to be underestimated.

As an ally what can you do?

First of all, to address the big rainbow elephant issue in this post. You don’t have to be superman and fly in and save the day when you see queer folk in danger. You could end up putting yourself and others in danger too. However, you have a responsibility as an ally to alert the authorities or step in if the situation can be managed without police enforcement. We still need support.

On a lighter note.

When the lockdown on our lives has finally been lifted, go to Soho on a Monday morning and soak up the queer energy the place has to offer. Go a few streets down and visit the plaque on Heddon Street where Bowie shot the cover for his infamous 1972 Ziggy Stardust album. Or travel a little further towards Warren Street and visit Gay’s The Word, an original LGBTQIA+ bookshop which has been standing strong in all its pride since 1979. Not to sound like an overplayed airlines advert, but you should really experience queer culture first hand, there’s nothing quite like it.

 

 

Becoming a better ally – I’m still learning too

My son told me he was gay on the platform of Fulham Broadway while we were waiting for a tube into Central London.

There wasn’t any big lead up to his coming out. I wasn’t expecting it right there and then but I’d been anticipating the conversation for most of his life.

I often think back to that moment and remember the gentle sway of conversation – our usual back and forth, laughing, comfortable – probably a bit banal. In retrospect I wonder if that’s why he choose that exact point – because we were entirely at ease and maybe he thought things would never be quite the same again.

For me though, his quiet admission didn’t disrupt anything at all. It settled that final piece of my knowledge of him with a small, satisfying click. I was surprised to hear him ask me if it would change anything between us . . . “How could it?” I said – “I love you – I’ve always known.”

Showing up

I’m painfully aware this isn’t every queer person’s experience of coming out to their family. And it certainly wasn’t without challenge, prejudice and homophobia from the males in our own family. But like the ally I’d learned to be over the course of his childhood, I stood up, stepped in and spoke out.

Being an ally can be in equal parts easy and difficult. Throw into the mix being a parent too and you can imagine the confrontational situations you suddenly find yourself in. Staring unflinchingly into the eyes of complete strangers who openly laugh at your child. Questioning what right those groups of adolescents have to threaten and insult him. Challenging your close friends and family members to address their unconscious bias and re-educate themselves.

It’s not about you

The complicated conversations with people you’d just assumed would be gay ok are difficult, let alone living with a constant undercurrent of homophobic violence, and fear for your queer people’s safety. I’ve had to learn to live with both and they cause me a great deal of anxiety. Of course it’s nothing compared to what LGBTQIA+ people are exposed to and have to navigate every day.

Being a true ally isn’t easy when you’re afraid. I once made the mistake of asking my son to consider wearing a hat to cover up his bright pink buzzcut, and swap his skirt and platforms for something that would attract less attention on his commute through London. He refused of course, explaining to me that his queerness was in the way he walked, talked and everything about him, transcending more than just his outward appearance. I’ve never asked him to change himself to suit other people since.

Start with love

The easy part has always been from a personal perspective – understanding and developing my own relationship with the queer folk in my life. Whether that’s been celebrating with friends as they committed to each other in a civil partnership before gay marriage was even legalised, or providing a safe haven so my kids could grow into their best authentic selves (read: supporting my son’s choice to wear cherry-red Mary Janes at nursery and painting his toenails sparkling silver every summer, although I do reserve the right to stop him talking about Mariah Carey on every. Single. Facetime call . . .)

First steps

This is what I’ve learned on my own personal journey to becoming a better ally. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone and I’m definitely still learning!

Accept and support – unconditionally. Acceptance starts at home and the little things on a daily basis will make all the difference to your queer family – be mindful of your language, be inclusive and non-judgemental.

Defend and protect – while I don’t advocate putting yourself in danger, defending your queer folk against homophobic insult and attack is vital – they need to know you’re on their side!

Question and challenge – try to become aware of unconscious bias and challenge it. No-one wants a belligerent person making accusatory comments so make sure you know what you’re talking about and always educate with kindness.

Educate yourself – if you don’t know the right terms for things or the pronouns your queer folk have chosen – ask! If your questions come from a place of respect and love they won’t mind you asking.

Bear in mind just because you know one queer person, doesn’t necessarily mean you have an understanding of the whole community. Listen to podcasts, familiarise yourself with important gay history such as Stonewall and the Gay Liberation Front and keep up to date with current news concerning LGBTQIA+ issues like the Black Trans Lives Matter protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

And finally…

Support where you can

Read more and get involved

These are some of my current favourites

Listen and watch

“Category is: Body ody ody”

Close your eyes and imagine this: I’m sitting in the Chelsea branch of Gail’s on a crisp winter morning writing this blog post on my MacBook. I have a skinny oat latte and a banana, because although the pastries look delicious, they’re not gluten free and I bloat at even the sight of wheat. I’m wearing a skinny jersey turtleneck and my Fiorucci Tara jeans cinched in at my tiny waist to emphasise just how much weight I’ve lost.

Girl. As if.

In reality, I’m crunched up on my bed looking down past my triple chin at my six year old HP laptop that took 30 minutes to turn on. I’ve eaten half a packet of biscuits with my morning ‘value’ filter coffee, and I’m in my pants and my favourite Oxfam bargain cardigan.

And just for the record, EVEN in my fantasy, I couldn’t resist a Gail’s pastry. They’re just too good.

We all have a fantasy, but they’re fickle, often equal parts aspirational and destructive. We need to manage our expectations.

Something I find so deeply problematic in the LGBTQIA+ community is the persistent need to categorise, label and define, particularly when it comes to our bodies. For a community that’s ‘all accepting,’ we can be anything but. Some of our queer specific dating apps are designed to make us ultimately isolate one another. They promote internalised homophobia, transphobia, racism and body shaming. I’ve come across profiles that say ‘No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks and No Asians.’ It’s disgusting, do we really hate ourselves that much?

The ‘Tribes’ that these apps promote facilitate and spawn further notions of self-loathing. Twinks, Jocks, Bears, Otters, Femmes… to name a few, are categories that define aspects of our physicality. For example, if you’re a twink, you’re typically skinny, blonde and shaved head to toe. If you’re a bear, you’re muscular, brunette and hairy head to toe. I could go on.

For me as a non-binary (he/his/they/them) individual I often feel that I don’t fit into any category, and quite frankly I don’t want to. In saying this, you sometimes can’t help but let the small minded people that operate within these suffocating tribes get the best of you.

There have been times where I’ve tried to ‘masc it up’ to try and hide my natural flamboyance and femininity. I tried to grow out my facial hair in an effort to fit in with the Bears and Otters. I’ve dressed subtle on first dates to appear less… gay? It doesn’t make sense and only leads to dizzying feelings of dysphoria.

Feeling dysphoric about our bodies is not breaking news by any stretch, and it doesn’t just apply to the LGBTQIA+ community. There are often many similarities in the way that queer men and cis women view their bodies for example. However, although us gays, girlies and our bodies are important, there needs to be more love, attention and support for trans bodies.

For decades now, trans folk and their bodies have been misunderstood, ridiculed and alienated. In 2020 and 2021 this is a bigger issue than ever.

Last year The Trevor Project, a non-profit organisation who specialise in suicide prevention among the LGBTQIA+ community, reported that 60% of young trans and non-binary individuals engage in self harm, and 40% of those surveyed seriously contemplated ending their own lives. Imagine then throughout history, how many undocumented transgender and gender non-conforming people we’ve lost. It’s harrowing.

In 2021 as the pandemic continues, this may prove harder than usual for trans youth as many will be isolated from their community, safe places and support systems. Home isn’t always a safe place either when there is still so much misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding transgender bodies.

As an ally, what can you do to help?

Do your research. Educate yourself. Donate.

Listen to podcasts like ‘NB: My Non-Binary Life’ by the BBC. Check out the Mermaids UK organization for their amazing charity work for trans and non-binary youth. Google Munroe Bergdorf and read about her story.

Check yourself too. The thing I hate hearing THE MOST when people are referring to my trans brothers and sisters is: ‘Oh, they’re a man but really they’re a woman’ and vice versa. Or ‘I would’ve never thought they were a guy before! They’re so feminine.’ This kind of attitude towards the trans community is super disruptive and leads to more feelings of dysphoria. Treat trans people with respect. I can’t speak for the entirety of the trans community, but they don’t need your validation on whether or not they’re ‘passing.’

If you’re unsure how a trans or non-binary person identifies, you can politely ask them, just make sure it’s in a private and non-threatening tone and environment. In addition, if you accidentally use the wrong pronouns (yes, especially if it’s in a group setting) immediately correct yourself and correct others too.

Yours sincerely, a non-binary badass.

“And if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else. Can I get an Amen up in here?”

In the first of three blogs highlighting LGBT+ history month guest blogger Keane Spenlé focuses on the queer mind.

Keane is a songwriter, musician and activist who performs under the pseudonym Søren – his/their queerness is at the centre of everything they do.

The gays: gurus of being fabulous, the gatekeepers of self-acceptance and definitely your only friend worth asking whether or not those Zara slingback heels would be too promiscuous for your date with Mark from IT on Thursday evening.

We’re often seen as a shoulder to cry on, the person you vent to, or the pal you drag along to the shops for some serious retail therapy.

Hunny. Although I’d really love to be your Damien from Mean Girls, or your super attractive but in a late 80‘s George Michael kind of way, best friend, I’m exhausted.

Thanks to RuPaul, the community slogan has become the glorified “If you can’t love yourself…” mantra. Once a very important reminder, it now serves as a global invitation that the LGBTQIA+ community has got it together, and have an endless capacity to deal with your self-loathing and insecurities as well as our own.

I’m joking of course, but truly, this self-love thing takes time. Historically, it has taken time and many people and institutions have made a point of disrupting this journey in order to push us further towards the outside.

As Mariah Carey might say ‘not to be bleak darling’ but every letter of our community acronym is being discriminated against daily. Someone that might be taking two steps forward may be tormented into taking another ten back. Our learning to love ourselves is pretty extreme as it goes.

For me, it took 16 years to admit to myself that I was bisexual, another two years to admit that I was gay, and a further three years to be comfortable as non-binary. Just to be clear, this is not everyone’s journey, and these labels aren’t gateways to and from one another, it’s personal.

My point is, we’re already conditioned to think that representing any letter of LGBTQIA+ is wrong, it takes years of rewiring your mind to make it make sense. For some of our predecessors it never did make sense. They didn’t have the luxury of assessing their mental health and watching queer positive tv shows, musicians and powerful figures talking about their own queer experience.

I think of cultural icons like Little Richard, a queer black man, who had to sanitise his image, lyrics and performances in order to garner any measure of success or recognition. Over his lifetime he would ‘come out’ and then retreat back into ‘The Closet’ in fear of the constant discrimination that followed him from the 1950’s up until last year when he passed away. For someone so deeply troubled he inspired so many, from Bowie through to Freddie and later Lady Gaga. It goes to show that even ‘cultural icons’ are not exempt from the harsh realities that queer people are accustomed to.

The notion that we, the queer community, all love ourselves unconditionally is a beautiful rainbow fantasy I’d love to believe in, but the same goes for all of humanity.

Some days I wake up, throw on my Juicy Couture, snakeskin trench coat and my signature £7 lipgloss and feel content with who I have become. I have the mental strength to face the world and it’s adversity with a strong strut and an award winning lip sync (under my mask of course) to ‘Toxic’ by Miss Britney Spears. Other days I wake up with a strong sense of dread and a bubbling anxious energy underneath the surface of my skin that I can’t seem to brush off as hard as I try. Loving yourself isn’t a badge you earn and get to keep forever, it’s a constant effort to uphold and maintain, and that’s tough but worth the struggle.

I had the thought only the other day, as I was strutting along in all my non-binary finery, that if I were in America during the late sixties prior to the Stonewall Riots, I would have been arrested for wearing practically anything I own in my closet right now. It reminded me of our privilege as queer people today and that although at times it’s difficult, we’ve made and continue to make progress. Furthermore, we’re lucky.

As an ally, what can you do to help?

We learnt last year that educating yourself is more important than ever, it is not the duty of ANY minority group to educate YOU on their community. If you’re reading this blog post you’re already well on your way, and so for that I say thank you, well done and can confirm you’re super chic and gay ok. Checking in on your friends and their mental health is paramount, particularly during the pandemic. I’d just ask you to spare a thought for your queer friends too – homophobia, transphobia and wider ignorance doesn’t disappear just because we’re in a pandemic, or in a Patricia as I now like to call it.

For more information on LGBT+ History Month visit their website: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/

Welcome to 4me World…

We’re delighted to introduce our new name: 4me World

Although we’ve evolved our brand, our values remain the same. We’ll continue to focus on your wellbeing and what matters to you.

Recently, on our social media channels, we asked you what mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and financial wellbeing mean to you. What helps your wellbeing in each of those areas, and if you had any hints or tips you could share.

We loved reading your replies and have featured a selection of them below:

Mental wellbeing

Nature can have a really positive effect on my mental health and hillwalking is amazing for my mental wellbeing.

Allan

My mental wellbeing is helped by finishing work on time and going for a run in the park, and being able to hug my wife and ask about her day.

Pri

The simple things are the best – fresh air, family and friends!

Sophie

The power of crafting keeps me mentally well. Whether it’s stitching or knitting I’ve found creating helps me to unwind.

Max

Physical wellbeing

Exercise helps bring routine to my day. #PEwithJoe and virtual evening classes at my local gym have really helped my physical wellbeing. And I’ve also rediscovered my passion for horse riding again!

Steph

I’ve recently taken up golf – the perfect socially distanced sport! It gets me out the house, gives me much needed exercise and it’s helping me gain confidence about being around other people during these uncertain times.

Rach

Financial wellbeing

I got in to debt buying non-essentials, so I’m now trying to use any spare cash for good. Financial wellbeing to me is keeping a handle on my spending and not buying any new clothes in 2020! I’m donating what I save in money and clothes I don’t wear to charity.

Damian

Financial wellbeing means doing what’s best for my family, they’re my no.1 priority.

Jai

If there are any wellbeing topics you’d like to see us cover on the website, or if there’s something you’d like to write about, then get in touch with us here.

Drowning in plastic – my plastic free July challenge

After seeing both the recent BBC documentary the War on Plastic and Blue Planet, I’ve been horrified to see the impact that single use plastics are having on the environment and on wildlife. A particular statistic that shocked me was that in the UK we throw away around 16.5 billion pieces of single-use plastic cutlery every year.

To me this seems like an unbelievable amount and it’s inspired me to try and give up as much single-use plastic as I can.

Whilst researching the plastic-free / zero waste movement online I came across Plastic Free July – a global movement encouraging people to refuse single-use plastics throughout the month of July – and I decided to give it a go!

Although living completely plastic free is probably a step too far for me right now, I’m aiming to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I buy and use over the month of July and I’ll be sharing my journey here – read on to find out how I got on.

Monday 1 July
I’m currently on holiday in Zante and as we aren’t doing much today except for sitting by the pool I’m able to make a good start on going plastic-free during July. I can get free water from the bar and the smoothie I order arrives in a glass mason jar. We have lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, meaning we avoid plastic cutlery, and I remember to ask the bartender not to give me a straw, so not a bad start all in all!

Tuesday 2 July
Today we travel home from Zante and although I try my best, the wheels come off today. We have a mid-day flight, so the morning flies by in a haze of packing, but before we leave the hotel we have one last glass of water and then travel over to the airport.

Zante airport is tiny, with a couple of cafes dotted around and not much else. I manage to buy a sandwich and ask them to put it in a paper bag, which they do for me, but getting water that isn’t bottled from here on out is impossible as the tap water isn’t drinkable in Zante. I buy a large bottle of water for myself and my husband to share and hope this option is a bit better than buying individual bottles – we take this on the plane and try and make it last as long as possible. By the time the food trolley comes around, I’m starving – but there aren’t any plastic-free options so I give in and order a sandwich (feeling surprisingly guilty as I do).

Wednesday 3 July
I’m back at work and back to reality! I have a s’well re-usable bottle in the cupboard at home, so I pour in some water from the fridge and add a few ice cubes to keep it nice and cold. I also bought a set of re-usable stainless steel straws so I pop one of these in my work bag.

We go out for lunch and although I’m well-prepared with my reusable straw, the place we go to for lunch provides paper ones! I’m struggling to find snacks that aren’t wrapped in plastic, so on the way back to the office I go into a local grocery store and pick up some loose fruit.

Thursday 4 July
Today I decide to bring in my own lunch. For most of this year I’ve been buying lunch out every day which is not only an expensive habit to have, but it’s made me think about how wasteful it is. I pack myself a nice healthy lunch in my reusable, stainless steel lunchbox and I can use the cutlery at work so I don’t need to bring a knife and fork with me.

My snacks today are an apple, an orange and a packet of crisps. The individually packaged crisps are an issue, so I decide to buy a large bag of crisps in my next food shop and divide it into portions, rather than buying a multipack, to cut down on packaging. Plastic-free packaged crisps seem pretty much impossible to find!

Friday 5 July
I have the same lunch as yesterday, so I put it all in a re-usable tote bag and take it along to work with me. In the evening, I go out for dinner with a friend and order a mocktail, but it comes with what appears to be a plastic straw. –I speak to the barman and he explains the straws are actually made entirely from cornstarch, which means they look like plastic but are completely biodegradable and they dispose of them amongst their food waste. I enjoy my mocktail even more!

Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July
It’s finally the weekend! We have a double helping of BBQ’s and I have a feeling that navigating this plastic-free is going to be a bit of a nightmare! On Saturday we have a hog-roast so I’m able to refuse a plate and eat my bun without the need for cutlery or a plastic plate.  We go to a family BBQ on Sunday and I feel slightly awkward asking for a proper plate and knife and fork rather than the paper plates on offer, but my sister in law gladly obliges. This gets me talking about the challenge with the family and I think I’ve now got a few of them on board too!

This first week hasn’t been without it’s challenges, however the small swaps such as bringing my lunch in, carrying everything in a re-usable bag and bringing my own cutlery with me have helped make a big impact already. I’m starting to plan how I’m going to tackle the food shop next week – I’ll let you know how I get on!