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Pester Power

20 May

You may have seen my earlier post on reducing my use of plastic personally. However, that’s only half the story. Businesses and organisations have to play their role, too. If there’s no plastic-free option available, then you can’t choose it.

So I’ve been utilising the still-useful skill of letter writing to try and encourage companies I use to join me on this quest. Below are some letters (OK, emails) I have sent, and the responses I got.



A couple of times now I’ve looked for sanitary towels in Superdrug and not found any eco-friendly ones.

Like many people, I’m concerned about the overuse of plastic, especially non-recyclable plastic, and I’m also worried by studies showing potentially harmful chemicals in mainstream sanitary towels. Considering the range of more environmentally and body friendly towels available now (e.g. Kind, Natracare, Yoni, Gift) I hope you will stock some in the future.

Karen Murdarasi

(Health & Beauty Card xxxx xxxx xxxx)

Hi Karen,

Thanks for getting in touch with your feedback on the sanitary towels.

I really appreciate your thoughts on this and I will definitely be passing this on to the team for the future. It’s really helpful when our customers get in touch to share their ideas.

Please do let me know if you have anything else and I’ll get this looked into for you.

Have a lovely day.


The Superdrug Customer Team


I really like your peppermints, and I always carry a wee packet in my handbag. However, I wanted to ask you about the packaging.

I like the fact that the boxes are cardboard, and that’s one of the main reasons I choose Peppersmith, but is the plastic film biodegradable? If not, are you considering switching to a biodegradble type of plastic? I know that many other ‘green’ companies have done this for plastic film that can’t be recycled.


Karen Murdarasi

Hello Karen,

Thanks for getting in touch -we’re glad to know you are a Peppersmith fan.

Our plastic film isn’t biodegradable but you’ll be glad to know that this week we are getting rid of it all together. Super exciting. We needed the plastic film to make the packs tamperproof but we have redesigned our little cardboard boxes so that they now have a cardboard perforated seal on them. These will be launching on our website next week and you’ll be able to find them in stores from the next couple of weeks onwards.

Best wishes,



I don’t have my original message to Origins because I had to use an online contact form, but the gist of it was, “I really like your products, but have you thought about making the packaging more sustainable?”

Dear Karen,

Thank you for contacting Origins.

In response to your question, I wish to advise that Origins accepts packaging from all cosmetic companies – regardless of the brand – for recycling or, where that’s not possible, energy recovery. Drop off any amount of empty cosmetic packaging at your nearest Origins counter and you’ll be rewarded with a FREE* 1-time use sample of one of our products. To find your nearest store please visit our web-site

In addition we are able to take all empty cosmetic packaging that protect the actual beauty product, whether plastic or cardboard.

*One free sample per customer, regardless of number of empty products returned. Offer available while stocks last.Again, thank you for contacting us. We hope you will look to Origins for product honesty, performance and concern for the environment.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact Origins.

Yours sincerely,

Consumer Experience Advisor

World Snooker

I don’t use this organisation exactly, but I do watch the World Snooker Championship avidly every year, and I was not best pleased with the oodles of plastic water bottles that I saw.

Dear editor,

I enjoyed the World Snooker Championship this year, but there must have been nearly as many plastic bottles as there were balls! It seems bizarre that while David Attenborough is trying to convince us to change our ways with This Planet, the World Championship would choose to move to plastic bottles for the players! Surely they are capable of putting their sponsor’s logo on a jug or carafe instead.


Karen Murdarasi


More pestering

As you can see, the responses I’ve had so far range from justifications through promises to look into it, right up to “we’re way ahead of you” (well done, Peppersmith). I’m sure there are plenty of other companies I could contact, too. If you have any you think I should try, let me know in the comments.

Feel free to use any of these emails as a template for your own little letter-writing campaign, or just try this format:

Dear company I use,

I really like your products, especially X. However, I’m trying to reduce my use of plastic, and I wanted to ask what you’re doing to make your packaging more sustainable.


Me (details of any loyalty card you might have)

Let me know how you get on in the comments.

Of course, it’s not just about plastic. There are other issues that companies need to address, where a wee nudge might be helpful, not least the use of slavery in the supply chain – but that’s a blog for another day.


Let’s play Hyndland bingo!

26 Apr

It probably says a lot about the neighbourhood of Anniesland, in Glasgow, that after spending a month here I am writing a post about Hyndland. Anniesland is a bit betwixt and between, both in a literal sense (its main landmark is Anniesland Cross, a major junction between roads that run west out of Glasgow and south to the Black Hole and the Death Star (as I like to call Govan and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital) and also in terms of character. It’s kind of west end but not posh, a bit down at heel but not cheap, not that far the city centre, but not actually close.

Hyndland, on the other hand, has a well defined character, and one that’s easy to gently mock. You must understand that this is affectionate mockery; if someone gave me a six-figure advance for my next book, one of the first things I would do is get myself a lovely period property in Hyndland with a garden where I could enjoy cocktails in the occasional sun.

But still, Hyndland’s unique brand of genteel bohemianness does raise a smile. My flatmate and I walked from Anniesland down to the Jelly Hill in Hyndland one fine evening last week, and did a little people watching. We had to come up with a secret sign whenever we wanted to call attention to something especially Hyndland (which was often) because, of course, in the west end the charming streets are quite narrow and we were practically sitting on the knees of the passers-by. They would have heard our comments, so we just cocked our pinkie fingers instead. 

Here is a bingo card of some of the things we saw. If you ever visit Hyndland one day, why not print this out and play along? It should be pretty easy to get a full house.

Someone carrying strawberries Someone wearing a hat (beanies and baseball caps don’t count) Shop with special offer on champagne (not prosecco)
Someone carrying champagne Man in a pink shirt Shop with more than ten kinds of gin
Pedigree dog Someone carrying a puppy  Bike with a basket

P.S. Why is there no photo in this post? Because I can’t find any nice ones of Hyndland that aren’t copyright. I suppose I’ll just have to go back sometime to take one of my own. Any excuse…

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

31 Oct

Because if you are, you could enter my Twitter prize draw to win a copy of Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong before it’s released! And five runners-up will win an .epub copy. Enter by retweeting this tweet and following @kcmurdarasi. See the terms and conditions, if you’re having trouble sleeping.

On the other hand, if you’re not feeling so lucky, there’s a more certain way to get your hands on a copy. Everyone on my mailing list will receive an .epub copy when the book is released on 22nd November (or as soon after that as I manage).

But what if you don’t feel lucky and you still want a paperback copy? Then you can pre-order it, like everybody else, can’t you? Do I have to do everything for you? 😉

The wonderful, awful business of being an author

8 Sep

As I obviously have oodles of time on my hands, trying to finish a novel (The Sarcophagus Scroll) while simultaneously preparing a non-fiction book for publication (Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood is Wrong), this must be the perfect time to host a question-and-answer time on AMAfeed (Ask Me Anything).

Anyway, whether I am superhuman, or thrive on challenge, or am simply mad, I have scheduled the Ask Me Anything for Tuesday 11th September at 2.30pm, UK time. You can post your questions before then (and I can answer them), but they won’t show up until Tuesday afternoon.

If you know anyone who’s curious about the business of writing professionally, encourage them to pose a question for me. If it throws up anything interesting, I may post the link again once the Q&A has closed.

The opposite of writer’s block

5 Sep

As usual I have to apologise for not writing  a new blog post for ages, but unusually the excuse is not just that I’ve been insanely busy (which I have) but also that I don’t know what to write about – or more accurately, I don’t know which thing to write about.

I have jotted down a few ideas for posts (I do this – I have an extremely rubbish working memory, so scraps of paper and memos on my phone serve as an alternative) but don’t want to write about all of them (if I wrote three posts in a week you might worry that I’d been replaced by the body snatchers!) and if I try to space them out over the next several weeks I’ll forget, or they will be out of date, or something else will come up.

So it’s over to you, patient readers who have just slogged your way through two one-sentence paragraphs. Do you want to read about my summer in Greece and Albania, with reflections on different culture, the changing face of Albania, and possibly language learning? Or would you prefer to hear about my beautiful new budgie, Gatsby? (I may become a bit of budgie bore, I’m afraid. He’s so cute!) Or would you like to hear about lactase? No, I’ll not tell you any more; if you’re intrigued, vote for it.

The survey should be showing below. (If it’s not, click here.) I look forward to getting my writing orders!