Are you planning to eat your underpants? Suck your jeans? Bandage a nasty cut with your freshly washed sweater? 

No? Then you do not need Dettol® Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser. 

This is the ultimate three-card trick of the laundry world, the cleverest, most pernicious con-job I’ve seen in a long time. Talk about inventing something completely unnecessary…

I am racking my brains to think why you might need hygienic clothing. 

Are you working in a research lab under the strictest of conditions? In which case, the lab will have its own routines, procedures and special clothing that keep the lab sterile. Same with a hospital. 

Are you looking after someone ill? You still don’t need antibacterial laundry cleanser because believe me, if the patient is THAT sick that they need totally sterile conditions, they won’t be at home under your care, they’ll be in an Intensive Care Unit.

Do you work with livestock? Have you just chucked up all over a favourite blouse? In which case, soaking the soiled articles in a bucket overnight, rinsing and then washing in a modern machine with modern detergent should do the trick. Repeat the process if there’s still a whiff or a stain. 

Look, clean clothing is nice. We all enjoy putting on a crisp, freshly laundered shirt. But it’s a shirt. It’s not dinner. It’s not a bandage. It doesn’t need to be hygienic. 

And here it is, in serried ranks, waiting to be bought…
© Chloë Goodridge, special researcher to Ms. Keane

The power of three

Dettol® are really onto a winner here, because this product is being sold as a third component of your wash. Yes, they advise you to use it IN ADDITION to detergent AND fabric conditioner. (I assure you, there’ll be a piece here on fabric conditioner later, fret not.) 

Here are the ingredients. I don’t pretend to understand them individually, all I know is that they are yet more ENTIRELY unnecessary chemicals being put into the poor overloaded sewage system.

Per 100 g Liquid, contains 1.44 g Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Di-C8- 10- Alkyldimethyl, Chlorides and 0.96 g Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Benzyl-C12-18-Alkyldimethyl, Chlorides, Contains 5% Non-Ionic Surfactants, Disinfectant, Perfume, Butyl Phenyl Methyl Propional, Hexyl Cinnamal and Citronellol.

That’s a lot of chemicals to get out of the system to make our tap water drinkable. Even if you insist on drinking bottled water (and I most sincerely hope you don’t), it’s nice to know you have potable water to make your tea and boil your vegetables in.

Still life with biscuit tin. How many laundries has the water in my tea been through, I wonder?

New products make waves

As far as I am aware, this is a new product on the market. I haven’t yet discovered any other anti-bloody-bacterial bloody laundry bloody cleansers for sale. (Let me know if I’m wrong – I can always edit!) But I have a ghastly feeling that now this has come on sale, the suits in the other detergent/cleanser companies will be cacking themselves in fright because Dettol® have stolen a march on them.

“Say, Chuck! Have you seen this new product, Dettol® Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser?”

“OMG, Sir, I just saw the cutesie-cutesie ad on TV last night for the first time and I shat my pants, it was such a great idea!”

“Yes siree, bob, and it’s for moments like that that we NEED to be selling an Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser of our own!”

“Don’t worry, Sir, I’ve authorised the Research and Development Team to get working on our own product!”

“Good man. We’ll strike the fear of laundry-related disease into the public.”

OMG, my cupboard is full of unhygienic clothing!

Fear sells

This product is a perfect example of Steve Jobs’ theory that we, the public, don’t know what we want until we see it in all its glory.

There are various marketing strategies that companies use, but the cleverest inspire either Lust or Fear. The iPhone was such a glorious piece of technology it made us weak with lust. On the other hand, this new laundry product reminds us that we are scared rigid about bacteria and socially terrified of being smelly. 

Here’s some of the blurb from the Sainsbury’s website. 

Dettol Laundry Cleanser is an additive that kills 99.9% of bacteria giving odour-free freshness : 1. Kills 99.9% of bacteria, even below 20ºC so that you can be confident that your laundry is hygienically clean every time, whatever temperature you wash at (proven to work in rinse cycle temperatures as low as 15ºC) 2. Gives odour-free freshness for up to 12 hours. It doesn’t just cover up malodour but eliminates odour causing bacteria at source….”

“Ideal for towels, children’s clothes, underwear, socks, bedding …and more…”

To kill viruses**
Soaking: add 1 cap to 2.5L of water and leave to soak for 15 mins
**Laboratory tested on influenza H1 N1; RSV; Coronavirus; Herpes Simplex Type

Note the various fear-triggering words in there…

  • bacteria
  • odour
  • malodour
  • children
  • viruses
  • influenza
  • herpes

…all designed to make you worried about something you NEVER thought of before – the fact that your laundry might emerge from the wash like creatures from the deep… contaminated and riddled with viruses!

Clean Seasalt socks. Whoever thought they might give me flu AND herpes!!!

Listen. You get your clothes out of the washing machine and dry them – tumble drier, washing line, heated towel rail – it doesn’t matter which. During the drying process they will come into contact with the air which is full of all sorts of microscopic bugs that we can do NOTHING about and which mainly do us NO harm. 

Maybe a fly lands on your t-shirt while it’s drying. Are you going to wash it again? Don’t be daft. 

You pop your knickers on and, whoopsie doo! A wee fart escapes. Are you going to wash them again? I no nink no. 

You do your trousers up and the dog jumps up to say hello. Are you going to put them back in the machine immediately? Don’t be ridiculous.

And if you’re not completely convinced, here’s this from the product description. 

Causes serious eye damage.

Ah. That’s not so good. Here’s another.

Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

We are washing this stuff into the sewage system???

Oh, and there’s yet another empty plastic bottle at the end of it which is going to go… er… where?  Landfill, of course!!!!

Landfill. Not one of humankind’s greatest achievements.
Photo by Ayotunde Oguntoyinbo on Unsplash

Time was when Dettol® was a comforting product. Mum always had a bottle under the sink so that if a kid got sick on the bathroom floor, or the cat pooped in the kitchen, she’d clear it up, mop the floor and then go over it with a bit of Dettol®. She dabbed cuts and grazes with it too. The smell was clean and hospitally and safe. That’s not so surprising, as it started its life in hospitals where it was used in surgical procedures to clean cuts, wounds etc.

Now, it’s owned by Reckitt Benckiser, a British multinational consumer goods company, and it’s just another brand trying to make a buck in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. Long term responsibility towards the planet doesn’t figure in the world of retail sales, I guess. Shame on them.


Finally, a word from Miss P.

Piper knows instinctively that a comforting cuddle is far more important than hygienic laundry.


Remember when you were a kid and you went to a bonfire night party and you stood by the huge fire?   Remember how your front was always roasting and your back was freeeeeeeeezing? 

Patio heaters are even less efficient than that.  

My googling tells me they cost anything from about £100 to £570.  They heat the open air.  The open air is a very big space.  It boldly goes all the way to Alpha Centauri and beyond.  And when you’ve heated a bit of that air, you have to buy another gas bottle to heat more air.  

And yes, I know that there’s an atmosphere between us and the great emptiness of outer space, I’m just trying to highlight the sheer futility of heating the outdoors. Especially as spring is finally here and the urge to sit outside gets stronger and stronger, and you suddenly become aware of all kinds of garden gubbins filling the shops: gazebos, swing seats and all that kind of mullarkey.

Of course patio heaters come in all shapes and types.  There are wall mounted, ceiling mounted and freestanding heaters.  There are tabletop heaters, and halogen bulb electric heaters.  There are fire pits, chimineas and every kind of stylish wood burning brazier which even I will admit I find attractive.  It’s a deeply primaeval need that impels us to huddle around a fire with a bunch of mates clutching a beer and a burnt sausage. 

Some years ago, I gave the Beloved a Chimenea for his birthday in desperation because I couldn’t think of anything else.  We put it together and lit it for the friends who’d gathered for a few bevvies, and have never used it since.  Piper didn’t want to pose and I now realise the decking needs a good scrub.  

However, it should be emphasised that whilst it is not a great idea to heat the outdoors at all in an overheating world, the ones that do the real damage are the ones with the gas bottles because they have special horrid qualities all their own. 

Time to give a big shout out to…

Surprising eco heroes? I don’t have permission to post this logo, but I don’t think they’ll mind me praising them.

In 2008, Curry’s actually stopped selling patio heaters because of ecological concerns.  (If you’re reading this anywhere else in the world, Curry’s is a huge electrical retailer in the UK with 295 superstores and 73 high street shops.)  This was a highly significant move on their part.  If only all those pubs and restaurants with outside heaters would follow suit.  

Curry’s decision came after a report the previous year by the EST (Energy Saving Trust) who found that the average patio heater emits around 50kg (110lb) of carbon dioxide per year.  So it doesn’t just heat the air, it emits that horrible CO2 that does so much damage to our lovely world.

Just in case you want to dismiss the EST as a bunch of spoilsport eco extremists, it’s actually an independent, impartial not-for-profit organization funded by the UK government and the private sector.   Its purpose is to advise on ways to save energy.   When the Chief Executive announced the findings of their research, he said, ‘Why don’t people just wear a jumper?’  Bless him.  A man after my own heart.

Even better – find someone else in a jumper and cuddle up.  Photo by Tom The Photographer on Unsplash

Clothing and fabrics have come a long way.  If you can afford a patio heater, you can afford a decent fleece or a duvet coat.  There are intelligent fabrics around these days that ensure that we don’t need to be cold ever again. Well, not in the normal way of things;  I’m assuming you aren’t living in Trondheim or half-way up a Himalaya.   Textile manufacturers have studied the business of keeping warm and there have been astonishing innovations in materials that will make sure you don’t freeze.  (And no, I’m not going to get into the subject of polyester, etc., right now.)  Fabrics can breathe, they can let sweat out and keep warmth in.  You can even get clever gloves that allow you to play with your iPhone without taking the gloves off.  Like your mum said, wrap up warm and you’ll be ok. 

Why would you want to heat the air?  Why in the name of sanity would you want to sit outside when it’s too cold to sit outside without a patio heater? Why, in an overheated, still overheating world, would you want to heat the air? 

What you’ll save

Let’s just go for the top of the range, shall we?  The Stainless Steel Goliath gas flame heater is £570.  You can get cheaper, but surely you want the best? For £570, you get just one of these babies – the stainless steel one which, for no fathomable reason, is more expensive than the black or white version.  Oh, and just remember, the gas will need replacing.  I don’t know about you, but replacing gas bottles becomes an awful faff after a bit. 

But, hey, it is a stylish piece of design and will heat your front, your sides AND your back, so long as you keep rotating.   

Here is the Goliath in all its glory.  Please do click on the link if you wish to purchase.  I won’t receive any payment.  Even I can see it’s a nice piece of kit, especially if you’ve decided that being out of doors on a cold evening is better than going inside and getting warm. 

Another idea…

Let’s just imagine what you could buy with £570 instead – and never have to struggle with changing the gas…

How about this marvel for starters?

I love the design of this The North Face – Summit L3 Down Hoodie – Down jacket but the name’s a bit of a mouthful

Normally this retails for £296.95 but at the time of publishing, this is going cheap for a mere £193.02 including VAT from Alpine Trek. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

Just in case you’re like me and always cold, why not add a fleece underlayer? This vibrant Arc’teryx garment is known as a Covert Cardigan. Yes, like a secret cardigan for rugged types, because as we all know, cardies can be a bit ageing. Not this splendid article though! This will set you back £140 at the Arc’teryx shop (ooh, doncha love that super-kool apostrophe!) in London where it is currently available in Kingfisher blue. Just click on the link to order it.

Arc’teryx get fabulous reviews on websites like

You will have plenty left over to purchase these amazing electric gloves. So whether you’re guzzling frankfurters in a chilly back garden, hunting moose in Alaska, or simply suffering from arthritis, your hands never need be cold again! Worth every penny at £119.99 from Amazon.

Rechargeable batteries too!

Total spend so far – £453.01. And all of these items so much more portable than a patio heater!

You still have financial room to purchase a full set of thermals from Blacks, the excellent camping and leisure shops.  You’ll want two sets – one in the wash and one on the body – so that’ll set you back £30 (£15 each).

I’ve got a set of these – fan-bloody-tastic

To be honest, I’m finding it difficult to spend the full £570 – so far, the total spend is £483.01 so you’ve still got £86.99 left… How about 84 bars of delicious Kendal Mint Cake, a very popular choice amongst climbers for restoring energy in adverse weather?

You can order just 42 bars for £18 but I’ve taken advantage of the offer of free postage for orders over £20.

Now add this beautiful paisley scarf from John Henric of Sweden, a snip at £45 (currently reduced from £89 – don’t say I don’t find you bargains!)

Pity about the tie – it would be equally fab on a woman.

Trigger warning

Pictures of meat coming up. Both cooked and uncooked. I thought it best to mention.

So you are finally left with the princely sum of £5.99 which is just enough for two packs of Black Farmer Sausages which are my absolute favourites and which have the added bonus of being gluten free!

If you haven’t tried them, you haven’t lived. (With apologies to vegetarians and vegans who obvs have lived and do continue to live happily and healthily.)

Other things you can do

Does your local pub/café/restaurant have patio heaters?   Perhaps you might instigate a gentle and polite chat with the publican/owner/restaurateur and encourage them to either turn them off completely or at least use them a great deal less.  If it turns out that they have them on to keep smokers warm, perhaps you could point out that smokers might smoke a bit less if they think they’re going to freeze to death before lung disease carts them off to Paradise.  Thus, you will be contributing positively to the health of local smokers.  There you are, you see – two good deeds in one! 

What should I do with my old patio heater?

The gas cylinder can be taken back by the company you got it from.  The rest of the heater needs to be taken apart, and probably by someone who knows how to do it.  The stainless steel/cast iron/aluminium parts can be recycled as scrap, other components can’t be recycled and its ultimate destination is landfill, I’m sorry to say.  Yep, it’s yet another bloody potential pollutant.  So if you’ve got one, just leave it on the patio till someone invents a way of disposing of the whole thing. 

A final question…

Should we give up barbecuing?

Blimey, what a thought. 

Imagine the cultural impact on Australia and South Africa if barbies and braais were banned!!!  Whole nations would be in crisis!  I don’t want to be responsible for national trauma, thank you. 

Seriously, “I don’t know” is my straight answer, but my feeling is that barbies are probably less damaging given that we use our barbecues for a far shorter time than we use the patio heater.  Once the chicken legs or veggie brochettes are on the plate, the fire dies down or the gas is turned off… but then we stay out all evening under that bloody patio heater, emitting CO2 like lunatics…  it’s not really in the same league, is it?

And besides, the Beloved likes nothing better than transforming a humble chop into pure anthracite and wrapping his gob round it moments later.  There’s no way I’d be able to make him relinquish his role as The Great Blackener of Meat.  One has to accept one can only do so much.

Meals of pure charcoal are an inevitable part of my summer.  Particularly when it’s beginning to rain.  Photo by Paul Hermann on Unsplash

A word from Miss Pips

Here is a picture of Piper in the snow, wearing nothing but her Christmas Kerchief.  She doesn’t know why we don’t grow lovely thick coats like she’s got.


This subject sparked a surprisingly difficult conversation.  A group of us were sitting in my friend Margaret’s lovely California garden, talking through various ideas for this blog.  As we were throwing around suggestions, I piped up with the words “shower gel”!!!!

There was an uncomfortable shifting of bottoms, and several throats were cleared.  I do believe I remember someone whistling tunelessly. 

After a long silence, someone spoke in a voice so studiedly neutral that I should have known I was on dangerous ground.  

“So!   Er… what do you wash with instead?”

“Soap,’” said I, still unaware of the thinness of the ice beneath my feet.

A polite but tense conversation followed.  Then someone uttered the following words:

“I can’t bear the idea of washing myself with something that’s been up someone’s bum!”

Dear oh dear oh dear.

Let it be said here and now that I would never do such a thing.  Here is my shower routine in egregious detail.  

  • I takes off me clothes.
  • I turns on me shower.
  • When it’s running nice and hot, I enters and stands under the spray.  Ooh, wet!
  • I takes the bar of soap in my hands
  • I works up a nice lather
  • I puts the soap back on the rack
  • I then washes me bits.

Far too much information, I know, but sadly essential information in the crazy world we inhabit.

Shower gel is a con trick.  Big companies have subliminally persuaded us that watered down soap with added chemicals in a plastic bottle (which will take thousands of  years to decompose) is somehow better than soap in a bar which came in a paper wrapping.  Why?  My bet’s on the simple fact that soap lasts far too damn long for their liking. 

And how often have you squeezed a goodly blob onto your hand, only to have it plop onto the shower floor?  So then you have to squish yet more into your hand.  Intentional waste on the part of the company? Surely not… 

Folk love shower gel because they don’t like gooey soap and the advertising is frothily persuasive.  Actually, you can avoid the soap going gooey, but we’ll come to that later. 

Time for a photo

Yes, an entirely unnecessary picture of the towel cupboard under our sink, but I did a masterclass in blogging and I was told that regular pictures were vital for keeping the reader interested.  And there’s a strong link between showers and towels.

The dogs’ towels are the ones bottom left.

What’s in shower gels?

They’re all different.  There are “ethical” ones, but here’s a list of things the less savoury – but hugely popular – gels might contain. (Sorry to be snarky to ethical companies, but anything packaged in plastic can no longer be entirely ethical, no matter how good the intentions.)

            1         Parabens.  A chemical that stabilises the liquid and has been linked to various skin conditions including rosacea, a nasty condition that leaves the skin red and irritated.  My own personal evidence is entirely anecdotal – so if you know better, please contact me.  However, my eczema is now virtually gone since I returned to soap.  Not only that, a very close friend who shall be nameless had really horrid rosacea which included pimples all o’er his pate (he won’t thank me for sharing this) and since he has shifted to paraben-free shower gels, his pate is a lovely shining thing, entirely free of pustular infestation.  (He won’t thank me for that either.) (But he is nameless.)

            2         Palm Oil.  You know those photographs of great swathes of beautiful jungle being ripped up and young orang-utans orphaned in the process?  Much of this is to plant oil palm trees to produce palm oil.   Palm oil is made from the fleshy fruits;  it has a high yield and is very stable once processed, which makes commercial developers simply dribble with pleasure at their future profits.   Oil palms have long been used as a cooking oil in the East.  This was all well and good when used in moderation.  But en masse, in great uniform monocultural blocs,  palm oil plantations are utterly lousy for the environment, lousy for the wildlife that lived in the jungle. lousy for the long term health of the planet, lousy for the air your children and grandchildren will breath, lousy lousy lousy.  And no, I dunno why they use it, there are enough shower gels that don’t… 

Miles and miles of uniform planting. Ugly, damaging, and all for Big Corporation Profit. And yes, I paid £7 for this photo from iStock

           3         Microbeads.  Teensy weensy, incey wincey bits of plastic so small you can feel them, but hardly see them.  Marvellous for exfoliating the skin, dahling – but shit for everything else. Happily, these are now being banned by more and more countries.  But not everywhere yet.  And they’re really worrying scientists now, because they think these tiny beads might get into our bodies through the food chain.   Fish and microplastic chips, anyone?   Scary. And dangerous.

           4         Long lists of chemicals you and I don’t understand, like sodium lauryl sulphate which makes it sudsy.  Oh, I’m sure they’re all ok.   No, really, I am.

And all the above chemicals wash into the system and need to be washed out by yet more chemicals so that we can have drinkable tap water. 

Believe me, soap is a much simpler beast, and there are some wonderful hand-made soaps out there.  Unfortunately, it seems that men are harder to persuade.

Men and their gels!

The Beloved won’t have it.   It’s gel all the way with him.   Minty-zesty-hunky gel with manly, inky-blue packaging.  Butch, pine-infused gel intended to waft the impression that he has just felled a stretch of virgin forest with his teeth. If he saw a gel called “Polish Steelworkers Body Wash – only a Real Man can squeeze me!!!” I swear he’d buy it.  He pops his bottle in the shower and within a month he’s replaced it with another preposterously marketed bottle which panders to his masculine ego while I’m still waiting for the silvery label on my Cussons Imperial Leather to fall off.

His ‘n’ hers view of our shower. This month, the Beloved prefers to imagine he’s cresting a wave. Note my deeply industrial looking soap. The tiles are hideous, I can’t think why I chose them. Oh yes, they were cheap.

Mind you, it’s not just about marketing;  it’s the Ease of the Squeeze.  Soap involves work!  And it’s so exhausting!   He has to reach his poor tired arms up to the soap dish, lift the offending bar – oh my, how heavy can soap be? – and then rub like the blazes to create some frothy suds!  Not only that, he would have to do it several times every shower!   Exhausting!   With eezi-peesi-squeezi gel, especially the kind that comes in a bottle you can hang up thus saving the effort of actually lifting up the bottle, he just reaches out, squishes with thumb and forefinger and suddenly, he is Tarzan.

Actually, there is a Tarzan soap on the market!

I don’t have permission to use this rather fab photo, so here is the link in case you fancy ordering some.

Yes, I know there are gels aimed at girls.  Probably designed with pink pearly packaging and a honeyed voice that says, “Go on, pamper yourself!” every time you twist the top.  (If it hasn’t been invented yet, it will be.) 

So how is soap so superior, then?

A bar of soap comes wrapped in a bit of paper and lasts months if you take it out of its packet immediately you get home.  That makes it harden so when you come to use it, it lasts longer. 

Oh, and just in case you enjoyed that completely unnecessary sexual innuendo, turn the soap over when you put it down so that soft side is facing upwards.  This way, the soap doesn’t go gooey in the soap dish.

So come on folks, come back to soap.  It’s cheaper, it’s greener, it almost always has a lower carbon footprint as it doesn’t travel nearly as far, it lasts much longer and it does the job just as well.

Some soaps are almost too cute to use. We live in a converted piggery so I love these cute piggy-wig soaps!

A quick warning

Although soap is a much simpler product than gel, some soaps are made with tallow (animal fat) which persons of a veggie leaning would prefer to avoid, and others are made with Palm Oil which is the Great Satan of the tree world.  So check contents. 


I fall by the wayside too sometimes.  I was once given a present of some Jo Malone grapefruit gel and it was so divine I’ve occasionally bought it as a gift if I’m going to stay with a chum.  (I probably won’t from now on, though – I’d feel a bit hypocritical.)  I’m not advocating a hair shirt lifestyle.  Just trying to inject a little thought into our automatic shopping….

And no, I am not being sponsored by Jo Malone.

What you will save

It’s impossible to be specific because it depends on what brand you buy, but let’s say a family of four uses a bottle of shower gel every month.  I mean each of them.  That’s 48 bottles destined for landfill every year.  Imagine what a street of 100 dwellings with, say, 2 adult occupants produces every year.  That’s 2400 empty shower gel bottles.  Imagine a city.  A state.  A country.   Millions and millions of empty bottles, bobbing their way to the sea.

Now do you think soap is a good idea?

What you can do

  • Attend craft fairs.  There are usually stalls of gorgeous handmade soaps.  Just check they aren’t made with palm oil which in my book is a great deal worse than tallow.
  • Make your own soap.  Personally, I’d prefer to make chutney, but if you fancy it, there are lots and lots of recipes out there in internet-land.  I have to say, however, that I was disappointed to see how many vegan soap recipes contained Palm Oil…
  • Invent a soap that smells strongly of a mix of petrol and pine and market it for BLOKES.   Include some pine needles to give him some scrub-a-dub-dub exfoliating goodness.  Let me know and I will certainly order some for the Beloved  Actually, given his equestrian leanings, eucalypt and horse manure might do just as well.  (I promise I will still love you, darling… ) 
My dog, Piper, enjoying the spring by the spring a couple of days ago. (That’s a spring, not a pond.) She loathes gels and soaps of any kind, and prefers to bathe in 100% fox poo.


On 27th September 2017, I read this in an email from Greenpeace.

“We’ve just found out that Velvet, the luxury loo roll, is using wood pulp from the Great Northern Forest to make its toilet paper. The forest stores huge amounts of carbon and plays a critical role in holding back the impact of climate change – but it’s at risk of being wiped away forever. And all for posh paper.”

Blimey. (more…)


17th February 2019

Hello and cheers!

It’s a crazy idea – saving the planet one product at a time.  Let’s face it, consumerism is rife, pollution is appalling, and we’re all doomed.  So eat, drink and be pampered, for tomorrow we die beautified.

On the other hand, if everyone decided today to live a little more carefully, we could make a significant difference.  I’m conscious that I’ve been banging on to my family for nearly four decades about the horrors of climate change and apart from recycle assiduously, minimise waste and keep chickens, I haven’t really done very much.  Yeah, useless, that’s me.


On February 15th of this year, as thousands of young British kids of school age took to the streets to protest at climate change, I felt embarrassed at how utterly crap I’ve been.  Bless them for protesting!

And climate change is happening.  These photographs were taken on 25th February of this year in my garden.  Butterflies.  Bloody butterflies in bloody February.  It’s all wrong.


I am no naturalist, but I believe this is a small tortoiseshell.   The viburnum is supposed to be out, the butterfly isn’t.  

Clearly, I am no photographer either, but I don’t have to pay myself royalties and anyhow, there weren’t any better photographers around at the time.  The butterfly is called a Comma, which seems apt enough as butterflies in general seem to be heading towards a full stop.

As you get wise to just how badly we have messed up the planet, you have every right to get angry.  Not just with us baby boomers, but anyone who has thoughtlessly contributed to the rape of the planet, the world that we call home.

So I’m starting this blog that points out week by week the habits we can change and products we can stop using without personal pain or significant impact on our lives.  Products that, when they are used by millions of people on a daily basis, do terrible cumulative damage.   I’ll give you as much fact as I can, and with as much back up as I can muster.   I promise, I will try not to lecture, nor will I be advising a hair-shirt lifestyle.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have some fun while saving the planet… is there?

It’s time we all started fighting for our home. Resisting the lure of the new, the sexy thrill of spending, the temporary fix we get from going home with full shopping bags… or even just assuming that the things we buy all the time are absolutely necessary when actually, they’re not… that’s as good place to start as any.

The terrifying subtlety of advertising

Steve Jobs, the legendary CEO of Apple Corp., didn’t hold with asking the public what they wanted.  He held that the public don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Did we know we needed an iPhone?  No, we didn’t, because we didn’t know what an iPhone might be. And can we live without ours now? I rest my case, Your Honour.

Big corporations know this.  They’ve foisted product after product on a gullible public which that same public now thinks it can’t do without.  Big corporations learned from and built on the work of a genius called Edward Bernays who happened to be Freud’s nephew.

Briefly, Bernays was a journalist who worked for the US Government in the field of propaganda during WW1 and just couldn’t stop when the war ended.  He’s credited with inventing PR.  In fact, he coined the phrase “Public Relations” to disguise the fact that it was actually propaganda.

His great achievement (if you can call it that) was to understand that it is possible to “control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it.”  In other words, he showed that is possible to manipulate people and change their habits by appealing to the unconscious.

It’s scary stuff.  We are constantly at the mercy of marketing manipulation.  You really have to be vigilant to block the constant barrage of suggestion, nonsense, advertising and lazy journalism that recycles corporate PR and disguises it as news or even fact.  It besieges us daily and persuades us to empty our wallets in pursuit of a cleaner, fuller, happier, more hygienic life. But oh my God, some of the stuff we are persuaded to buy is RUBBISH!  And that’s where I come in.

How this started 

The germ of this blog began when my old friend Margaret Allen came to visit from the USA.


Me and Margaret, all dolled up for a party.

She happened to mention that she wanted to write a book called “Stuff You Don’t Need” and I jumped at it immediately.

“Oh yes!   Like wet wipe warmers you mean?”

“Exactly,” said Margaret.  “And bath bombs, and products that “perfume” your vagina.”

“Yessss!”  I cried. We ran through a lengthy list of products and gadgets and even medical procedures that we think of as unnecessary, wasteful, and environmentally destructive.  (Incidentally, Margaret is a Physician Associate and has spent her working life at the sharp end of community medicine in the USA.  She also has a Master’s Degree in Law.)

“And what about bloody tumble driers?” I cried.

Margaret said “Ah,” and looked a bit doubtful.  Then she said she got quite a bit of use out of her tumble drier, mainly because she has a lot of visitors.

I was slightly shocked.  Of the two of us, Margaret has always been the greater eco-warrior.  Tumble driers are energy users on a grand scale, aren’t they? At least, I think… More research needed, Keane!   But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We started working on the idea.  It’s morphed several times.  It’s been a book, a blog, a book again, a blog… Somewhere along the line, the many thousands of miles between us made collaboration to hard to manage.  It seemed easier if Margaret writes the book she envisaged in the first place, and I should write the blog with her occasional (and wonderful) contributions.

In addition, the project got re-named.  “Stuff You Don’t Need” didn’t have quite the damning quality of “Shit You Don’t Need”.

I also want contributions from readers.  I want you to let other people know about the blog.  I want to know when I get my facts wrong, or if you have ideas of your own of things we could change about the way we live.

And if reading this blog persuades you to think twice before you spend your money on stuff you don’t need, I shall consider it well worth the effort.

Come back next week and find out what to change first…


I have done my very best to research my blog subjects to the best of my ability, and trust that all future guest contributors (yes please!) will do so as well.  So this blog is not offering consumer or medical advice.   Please consult your doctor if you feel unwell, and always seek the advice of experts IN PERSON if you are in doubt about any of the subjects raised in this blog. In other words, I cannot be held responsible for anything you may do as a result of reading this blog.