How to Make Smart Material Choices with Black+Blum

Disclosure: I was gifted these products by Black & Blum.

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There has been a lot of publicity recently about the environmental impact of plastic pollution. And rightly so. According to the Plastic Oceans Foundation, we are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic annually, which is apparently roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity.

Approximately half of the plastic produced is for single use and worryingly, more than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. That’s a huge amount. A lot of this is made up of single-use drinking bottles and drinking straws.

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A recent report in the Guardian stated that more than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. Estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report predict that this figure will increase to 583.3bn by 2021.

The Marine Conservation Society estimates that the UK alone uses 8.5 billion straws a year. Whilst this figure is quite shocking there are already plans to deal with this situation. Companies such as JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Waitrose have all started phasing out plastic straws and plans are afoot for the UK government to ban plastic straws altogether.

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I find it really disconcerting to hear that we have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than we have in the whole of the last century. Sure plastic is cheap and extremely versatile, but it’s about time we took a good hard look at our disposable modern lifestyle and how it is contributing to the destruction of our environment. We need to make smart material choices if we are going to turn this situation around.

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It has been nice to hear about various locations allowing people to refill their water bottles in an attempt to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic bottles we get through. Likewise, Starbucks announced that it will be the first UK coffee chain to add a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups with a view to reducing the 2.5bn disposable cups we use every year.

From a personal point of view, I would really like to reduce my plastic consumption this year. It’s a difficult thing to do given that practically everything we buy these days comes wrapped in layer after layer of plastic packaging. Does a cucumber really need to be shrink-wrapped? Do I really need individually wrapped avocados? No, no I don’t. But there are some areas where we can make better decisions and smart material choices.

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That’s why I decided to work with Black+Blum on their #DesignForHealth campaign. I wholeheartedly believe that the environment we live in can help to support our health and wellness. For decades now, rampant consumerism has led to the creation of a throwaway society characterised by over-consumption and excessive production of poor quality disposable items.

But I think that the tide may be starting to turn. I believe we’re finally starting to realise the destructive nature of mass consumption and as a result, we’re looking for more sustainable, renewable and recyclable options when it comes to our material choices. I believe this is probably what is driving the current trend for natural materials.

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Black+Blum’s BOX APPETIT  range features a number of products that are plastic-free, instead of utilising more natural materials. The products that I chose to feature in this post are all made from stainless steel. Characterised by its high levels of durability, stainless steel is a great alternative to plastic. Its inherent natural strength and extremely high levels of thermal insulation, make it a perfect material for a range of food storage and transportation products.

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Unlike plastic containers that often contain harmful BPAs, there is no risk of this with stainless steel. I was able to try out the brand new lunch box which is Black+Blum’s first truly leak-proof stainless steel lunch box. It is a 3-in-1, multi-functional lunch box allowing you to transport your lunch, cook dishes in the oven, and even store pre-cooked meals in a freezer.

It has a small valve on the top, a divider to separate the main cavity into two and finally, there is a silicone strap which is used to secure the lid onto the box. One thing I really liked about this was that the stainless steel fork that comes with it can slide into the silicone strap keeping it nicely attached to the lunchbox.

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I was also able to try out the stainless steel sandwich box which features a bamboo lid. Bamboo is not only extremely sustainable, being one of the fastest growing plants in the world (certain species of bamboo can grow 91 cm within a 24-hour period…crazy!) but it is also extremely durable, water-resistant and naturally anti-bacterial.

The lid can be used as a chopping board or as a serving board. There is also a silicone strap with this lunchbox for added security but it is worth noting that this box is not leakproof.

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The Thermo Pot is one of my favourite items from the BOX APPETIT range. It is quite a large food thermos and can hold up to half a litre. What I like most about it is the cork lid. I’m a huge cork fan and have been for some time now. Again, cork is a sustainable product that is both renewable and recyclable. It is an abundant resource which can regenerate far quicker than we can use it (each tree that is stripped will be ready to harvest again in 9-12 years).

Cork is an excellent choice of material for a thermos as it has impressive thermal insulation properties and can keep the contents hot for up to 6 hrs and cold for up to 8 hrs. I also like the fact that there is a ladle spoon that attaches to the body of the thermos with magnets. A great way to ensure that you don’t forget your spoon.

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The final product that I had the pleasure of testing is the stainless steel water bottle. The utilitarian design really appealed to me as this bottle will definitely stand up to the wear and tear of being lugged around on a daily basis. The lid is made from polypropylene and silicone and there is a little strap that secures the cap to the bottle that is made from vegan leather. This strap also acts as a carry strap. I must say I’m intrigued by the idea of vegan leather and I’ll definitely be looking more into this as an alternative to traditional leather.

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The reason I wanted to work on this campaign with Black+Blum is because I’m trying really hard at the moment to be more organised and take my lunch into the office with me instead of buying it. Not only will I save money in doing so but I’ll also be doing something good for the environment by not creating so much waste.

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I quite often end up buying a sandwich and a bottle of water or orange juice for lunch (and some vegetable crisps if I’m feeling a bit naughty). I do feel bad chucking my plastic bottle straight in the bin each time. I’ll be much better off using products like these that allow me to bring my own healthy lunch in from home and refill my water bottle once empty. If we all do our bit and make smart material choices, I’m sure it wouldn’t take too much effort to reduce the 150 million tons of single-use plastic that we produce each year. Just look what happened when we started charging for plastic bags. It can be done!

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What do you guys think? Are you trying to reduce your plastic consumption too? Are you trying to make smart material choices by opting for materials that are sustainable, renewable and recyclable?

Tips for reducing your plastic use by choosing sustainable, renewable and recyclable materials instead

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  • Hi Stacey,
    I just wanted to write a personal note to you to say a big thank you for such a lovely post, but also to your followers for such nice comments :)
    As the lead designer (& co-founder) at black+blum, I can tell you that we put our heart and soul into each design, so it is so nice when people like what we do.
    I look forward to staying in touch, as we have some super exciting designs launching soon and would love to share them with you.
    Many thanks again for such a lovely post.
    Dan Black

    • Hi Dan,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and comment. I’m truly honoured. I knew that my readers would love your products as much as I do, what’s not to love! They are functional and beautiful. I’d really love to know about your new designs so definitely keep in touch!

  • Seriously I want all of those, how gorgeous are they? Black+Blum are on the money with this one I think. We’ve been working hard to cut down our plastics for a while but there is so much plastic packaging on everything! We have a great shop here in Brighton where you take in your own containers for things like Rice, Coffee and spices. Its really great but it’s not something I have the time to do weekly, unfortunately.

    • We have a similar shop here in Totnes Mary, but I have to admit I’ve not been in yet. I wish the supermarkets would try this out too. I was astounded the other day as I packed away my shopping and threw out all the plastic wrappers. It’s totally unnecessary.

  • Wow… Really no excuse not to go for it when they look this good too!!?! Stunning products! It’s great how many design and eco-conscious products are available now… Do you remember ten years ago when everything that was sustainable or made from recycled materials looked god awful?! So glad those days are behind us! x

  • What a really interesting read, i must check them out. I must admit I hadn’t heard of them before, but such an important topic too. Plus they look so nice too!

  • I love these stylish containers. It’s great that they have matching forks too. As well as straws plastic cutlery is another thing that gets used once and thrown away too often.

  • This is a very interesting post as the topic is very hot right now. I’m just on the look out for a Brita filter jug because of that very same reason, which is to stop using plastic bottles. Maybe I should look into changing our plastic boxes for something more environmentally friendly too. I really like that sandwich box with a bamboo lid that can be used as a choping board ( what a great idea) . And it is so funny that you gave a cucumber as an example. When my two cousins came to visit me from Poland few years ago they couldn’t stop laughing when they saw a cucumber wrapped in a foil so ever since then a cucumber to me equals wasted plastic. 😉 (I’m Sorry, that was a bit long comment )

  • Great points for very long conversation. I will be definitely trying to reduce plastic use in my life. I always wonder why cucumber needs to be packed in foil.

  • What a great article, I’m loving all these smart solutions! I thing shopping at local greengrocers rather than supermarkets certainly helps … but I think you’re right…. the tide is certainly starting to shift!

  • They all look so stylish and will last a lifetime, so much better than the plastic alerntative. I’m also trying to cut down on plastic use but finding it so difficult as it’s allpervasive. But I do think everything we do is a step in the right direction! X

  • allelujah! where can I buy a few? I really liked the finishing touches – bon apetit on top, magnet for spoon etc – this shows they have thought of the products really well. Plus it looks good. Taking food in the office is no longer a bit embarrassing . Really loved their book lunch box – BPA free too, looks great. Also 45 day refund policy? I’m in!

  • Great post lovely ! We are also here trying to reduce amout of plastic and sometimes its unbelivable as to how much wrapping shops actually use on stuff take a brocolli for instanc it is cheaper to buy wrapped brocolli than one without wrapper -its madness x

  • Funny how things come full-circle, eh? When we were kids we’d always take lunch to school in containers then bring them home afterwards to be reused, but along the way the ease and convenience of single-use packaging seemed to take priority over actually being mindful of resources and the environment. I loves these new pieces and really do need to adopt this approach in my own life. Luckily I work from home a lot so taking a packed lunch out isn’t often something I need worry about but when I work from town I always just pick up something prepackaged – maybe if I invest in one of these grown-up lunch box options I’d be less inclined to do so! x

    • I totally agree that things are coming full circle Kate. All this convenience seems like such a good idea at the time but give it a few years or decades and we realise the price that we have to pay for that convenience. And in this case it definitely wasn’t worth it!

  • Wonderful post Stacey and I’ve been thinking about how we can reduce how much packaging we use as a household as well! It’s way out of hand. I love these lunch boxes – they are not only ecologically sound but just look beautiful too! xx

  • I completely agree, the tide is turning! I fear we may be doing too little too late but we’ve got to try! One of our NY resolutions was to try and cut down on waste and we’ve definitely cut down on packaging a little, but generally it’s very difficult. Especially with kids and they all come with straws which are so so bad for the environment. Every little helps though, and these products looks great!

    • It may well be a bit too late Karen but if we make changes now it has to better than carrying on the way we are. Now that China is refusing to take our recyclable waste the pressure really is on.

  • A great post Stacey. I must admit I’m trying to cut back on the plastic but it is HARD! These products look lovely and I’m sure that with a few of these in my kitchen I’d try harder. x

  • Do you know, this year I have been making an extra effort too. It really is terrifying how much plastic is being used.
    I’m a massive fan of Black and Blum – not only are their designs really clever but they’re making a conscious effort to reduce waste x

    • That’s why I like Black+Blum so much Lucy. Their products are so functional and you can just tell that a lot of thought has gone into each design, especially when it comes to materials.