Eco options: start with what you already know

 

In my garden: Apple Blossoms

Don’t get complicated.

I can safely assume (I hope) that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.

 

Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.

Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.

I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”

And that’s just at the supermarket!

At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Green thing to do. This link tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.

 

So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you have plastic bags at home, take these along with you on each trip to the supermarket. Rather reuse your existing packaging than help feed the need for new plastic packaging.
  • Clothing items can be mended, donated, repurposed or even cut up for cleaning and wiping surfaces.
  • Save and reuse your cleaned out pickle jars instead of buying more plastic food containers.
  • I use this alternative to toothpaste: RECIPE: Blend 2 Tablespoons of baking soda (bicarb), 1 teaspoon of Xylitol and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Pour a half to one teaspoon into your hand, pop into your mouth, and brush.
  • You can also try some ideas from my Green Tips and Tricks posts

 

 

And here’s a helpful link by one of my favourite bloggers: Zero Waste Chef

And remember to include yourself in creating positive impact: your own health and well-being should be a priority. What are the things that nurture and sustain you, helping you feel healthy and happy? Remember to feed your internal environment: your body, your emotional health and general well-being. (You can still eat out at your favourite coffee shop/ restaurant: just remember to take along your own reusable packaging to take home any leftovers or doggie bags ;))

So where are YOUR ‘Go To’ areas when you consider your health, your environment and whatever matters to you most? What are you areas of concern, the things that make you want to Save the World, or at the very least, save your health :). What makes you feel optimistic, pessimistic, or somewhere in between? Feel free to share…..

10 Green Tips and Tricks for October

More simple, do-able suggestions for a Greener lifestyle:

Seen at Food Lovers Market

 

  1. I have used vinegar in place of fabric softener for years but have never quite learnt to ignore the strong smell of vinegar. I find that the fresh smell of peppermint is an effective way to mask the smell. To use, fill the rinse compartment with white vinegar to which I add three drops of peppermint essential oil (see more in this post). Replace the peppermint with a different fragrance if you prefer. See the picture below for suggestions.
These are three of my favourites for cleaning, as well as lavender, lemon,  peppermint and tea tree.

 

2. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil onto the corner of a cotton kitchen towel. Use to wipe around light switches, cupboard doors and around the door handles on fridges, freezers and other utility areas. Grubby, greasy finger marks come clean after a light rubbing with a touch of the pure oils. You can also use essential oils to remove residue of sticky labels on glass jars: (See this post) 

3. Green cleaning for your microwave oven: Fill a pyrex bowl till half with water and add 4 drops of lemon essential oil and/or a few slices of lemon. Place the bowl inside and microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe inside the microwave with a clean cloth till dry and shiny.

(Note: Essential oils are available from Dischem and other pharmacies, from Health Shops and from suppliers listed at the foot of this page)

4. Once empty, the little glass bottles are a nice way to fragrance a drawer or shelf in your linen or clothing cupboard. Simply place the empty bottle, without its lid, into the drawer. The fragrance should last for several weeks. You can do the same with an empty bottle of vanilla extract.

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5. If you are interested in making your own vanilla extract, see this VANILLA EXTRACT RECIPE. It’s super easy: just pop a vanilla pod into a small amount of vodka or brandy and wait. Vanilla pods are not that difficult to source. I bought mine at the dry goods bulk buy section at FLM Parkmeadows. I love vanilla essence: I add it hot drinks, breakfast oats, home made custard and even to bath and body products as explained Here

6. Wash your hair naturally … no shampoo required! This is the best site I have seen for searching NO-POO RECIPES. For the past few months I have washed my hair with only aloe vera juice, whole egg and no soap products.

7. Milk of Magnesia (Magnesium Hydroxide) is my NATURAL DEODORANT RECIPE of choice. I started using it in the winter this year, and am waiting to see if it stands the test come the summer months which are now approaching! I use the Phipps brand which contains no stabilisers or other additives, so I always ‘shake before use’, and just dab a few drops into the armpits each morning. It’s available in the baby care isle in supermarkets. If you wish to add a scent, I recommend 5 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil per 100ml of milk of magnesia.

8. For a delicious vegan milk alternative for morning oats or cereals, or even as a simple, refreshing dairy free smoothie: HERE’S THE RECIPE: place together in a jug or other container:  1 ripe banana and 1 cup of cold water. Use an immersion blender to mix and blend for a few seconds till frothy. Optional: crushed ice, vanilla essence, cinnamon, honey etc etc. 

9. If the item you need is not available in bulk, and only as a packaged item, then at least try to avoid plastic packaging as your only option. That well loved South African favourite, Jungle Oats, is still available in cardboard boxes, without a plastic inner, and the Italian Serena and Barilla brands are all cardboard, although the pasta does have a tiny plastic window on the front. Sadiya basmati rice is from Pakistan and is available at FLM in printed cloth bags in 1kg and larger sizes.

10. And lastly in a spirit of giving: if you are a consumer of print media, remember that your used weekly or daily newspaper can still be put to good use. Animal welfare organisations such as SPCA, as well as your local vet, will appreciate your donations, as newspaper can be used for animal bedding and for cleaning up around the animals.

 

 

Clearing out the clutter (and other undesirables): it’s all about choices.

 

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In my garden: Butterfly Bush and yellow daisies

 

Henry Thoreau evidently didn’t like clutter. Here is a quote from him written around the year 1845, which in itself is interesting for me. The quest for simplicity in the Western World was clearly an issue as far back as 170 years ago!

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

 

My own reasons for changing to a more natural way is described in my About page. And further along to June 2017 since reading Bea Johnson‘s  book, Zero Waste Home, I have been inspired to read more on environmental issues and to explore different ways to simplify and to try harder…for my health, my home, the environment.

 

The book points to some critical issues:

Much of the world’s natural resources are under threat, yet as consumers we continue to buy and use petroleum based products, such as plastics, cleaning fluids and pesticides instead of looking for less harmful and preferably natural alternatives where possible. Research tells us that “the manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.” (Quoted from). And looking around, we see that household incomes and world economies are in crisis, yet we continue to make poor choices regarding how we spend our money. All over the world people are struggling with health issues ranging from poor nutrition (in many countries there simply isn’t enough to eat, an issue which requires attention outside of this particular post), to cancers, auto-immune problems and other chronic and life threatening conditions, yet we continue to buy unwholesome, processed foods and also to bring toxic cleaning and personal products into our homes.

 

It seems clear to me that if our consumer habits directly affect our environment, our economy and our health, and that if we wish to see change for the better, then we need to ‘Be the Change’. One way to do this is to be aware that shopping is voting, and that we have the power to change our shopping habits and make better choices about what we bring in to our homes. Also, we can try to improve our efforts at home homes, such as looking beyond recycling if possible. Consider whether you might be wasting food being unnecessarily, or throwing out out items of clothing that could be repaired and reused, or go to a charity, instead of to landfill. Do we throw out used cooking or washing water that could rather go to our garden or indoor plants? Do we favour reusing glass pickle jars for food storage rather than buying more plastic? (See my post here on how to freeze in glass). And can we make better choices regarding our cleaning and personal products: either by purchasing eco-friendly products, or even making our own with simple, basic, affordable ingredients? (See my Recipes category section for ideas)

 

I have listed below some “key areas”, issues that are close to my head and my heart as I work at living with the intention of keeping things natural, simple, affordable and as “uncluttered” as possible: Continue reading

The Human Body: a World in One

 

In my garden: Nodding Pincushion

 

Some thoughts from a book I bought years ago, in my early days as a yoga teacher in Cape Town. Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health :

“We all tend to see our bodies as “frozen sculptures”- solid, fixed material objects- when in truth they are more like rivers, constantly changing, flowing patterns of intelligence.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared “You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are forever flowing in.”

The same is true of the body…. Your adipose tissues (fat cells) …is exchanged every three weeks. You acquire a new stomach lining every five days (the innermost layer of stomach cells is exchanged in a matter of minutes as you digest food). Your skin is new every five weeks. Your skeleton…is entirely new every three months….You appear to be the same outwardly, yet you are like a building whose bricks are constantly being replaced by new ones. Every year, fully 98% of the total number of atoms in your body are replaced- this has been confirmed by radioisotope studies at the Oak Ridge laboratories in California.

This constant stream of change is controlled at the quantum level of the mind body system.”

 

Peter Bevan-Baker makes the same point here:

“It is not simply a cute phrase to say we are what we eat: it is an absolute truism. Every cell in each of our bodies gets replaced on a regular basis — some within hours, some years. The bones that are my skeleton today were made of entirely different cells just a few years ago, and those new bone cells came from what I ate (and drank and breathed). We are of the Earth, and it is of us. The “environment” is not something out there, separate from us: it is a description of the continuum in which we exist.”

 

Deepak Chopra’s point about the quantum body is perhaps a conversation for another day. The quantum level is, according to physics, the level at which matter becomes energy, and in Ayurvedic treatment, it is at this level, including in our thoughts and attitudes, that potential for true change and healing exists.

 

The point for me is the wonder of the human body, the natural intelligence which maintains the cycles of little deaths and rebirths that we don’t think about and are not even aware of as we go about our daily business. The body knows what to do. We have an autonomic nervous system which regulates our vital activities such as breathing, heart beat and digestion, and we have an inner intelligence which knows how to create healing and how and where to replace cells in our bodies as needed.

 

And this wonder extends to the body’s ability to interact with our environment within which it lives and breathes. We have an enduring physical connection to our world, via the food from our land and seas, the oxygen and other elements in the air that we breathe, and from our dams and rivers, the water that sustains life in the body.

 

Let us not lose our sense of wonder, for small miracles are happening within and around us all the time. And perhaps take a moment to thank your inner intelligence (your God, or whatever you perceive that to be) and to thank the magnificent world which surrounds and sustains us.

 

 

Minimalism, Your World and You

 

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In my garden: purple verbena and yellow daisies

 

“What is minimalism then?…it’s living lightly and gracefully on the earth. … its uncovering who you are.” Francine Jay

I like the way that this quote points to two issues, without separating them:

1) Francine refers to ‘uncovering who we are’ which leads me to a few questions: Do I have some ‘uncovering’ to do? What are the things that I need and love? What things can I do without, and am I able to let go of these? What are my non-negotiables, the true essentials that add value to my lifestyle and to my life as a whole? What things that I own express my own true needs and preferences, and which do not?

2) She also refers to ‘Living Lightly and Gracefully on the Earth’, which for me is about living with care and consideration for the earth under our feet, and for the environment that surrounds us and gives us life. Minimalism is about living with less and implies going smaller, not bigger.

 

This quote from the wonderfully multi-skilled Peter Bevan-Baker explains further:

“Continuous expansion on a finite planet is not the answer to our challenges: Like our built environment, bigger is not necessarily better. Rather, we need better integration and a recognition of our proper place in the bigger scheme of things”

The use of the word integration reminds us of our deep connection to the world in which we live and that our actions and the choices we make, whether carefully or carelessly, have power and impact.

 

Our individual motives for Living Lightly, or becoming more Minimalist, is not really the issue here. Whether you have become tired of the clutter in your home and have started giving stuff away to a good cause, or whether your concern for our oceans means you stop using plastic drinking straws in order to help stem pollution, the result is that you are making positive change for yourself and for your environment. This is a step in the right direction towards uncovering who we are and living lightly and gracefully on the earth.

 

 

 

10 Green Tips and Tricks to try in September

 

Simple and Do-able 🙂

 

1. Recycle your worn out kitchen rubber gloves. (I always have a pair of these in case of hard-on-the-hands jobs). Simply cut across the wrist area or fingers to create elastic  bands.

 

2. Print out a laundry stain removal chart …and keep within easy reach so that you can attend to stains and spills ASAP. Here’s the one I use.

3. Keep a spice jar filled with baking soda (Bicarb) at your kitchen sink. Use it to sprinkle and scrub hard to clean areas such as greasy roasting pans. Also great for wiping away coffee and tea stains left behind in cups and mugs.

4. Keep ends of lemons at your kitchen sink …(next to the baking soda!) I use them with a sprinkle of  baking soda or table salt, to clean up wooden cutting boards after use. (Use soap after cutting meat, chicken or fish) Some further suggestions for lemons here

5. Reuse soap ends ( this idea from Jane’s Delicious Garden). Tie them into a piece of fabric or a mesh bag and tie onto your outside tap for use after gardening and other outdoor jobs.

 

6. Keep a thermos flask topped up with hot water next to your kettle. Instead of boiling fresh water from cold each time, you will have a supply of hot water always close at hand.

7. As for those silica gel packs that we find in jars of vitamins and tablet medication and sometimes even in shoe boxes! …. Here are some ideas. I place them into sneakers and other closed shoes where necessary. Continue reading

Breathe in, Breathe out

I was a Hatha Yoga Teacher for many years, both while living in Cape Town and up until a few years back here in Johannesburg. The traditional Sanskrit term for yoga breathing is Pranayama, and it encompasses a variety of practices, some of which are quite intense and not intended for the yoga beginner. One of the first things that the new hatha yogi is taught is the importance of the breath as part of the yoga practice. To the outsider, Hatha Yoga may appear to be a series of physical movements and postures, but in fact it goes far deeper to a place where the inner organs and systems, and of course the breath, are involved in the practice.

 

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Springtime in the garden: Indigenous South African Clivias

 

One of the cornerstones of the practice of yoga is awareness of the breath, which brings me to the point of this article: The importance of the awareness of breathing in daily life. It is a known fact that our thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on our breathing and this in turn affects the inner workings of our body’s vital organs. Feelings of stress tend to cause shallow breathing which restricts the vital flow of oxygen and the removal of impurities in the body. Simply put, we need to breathe effectively in order to perform effectively, and we need to breathe effectively in order to manage the feeling of tension that is inhibiting our breathing in the first place.

The texts we studied from as teachers placed an emphasis on how to BREATHE DEEPER into the abdomen and rib cage in order to optimize the uptake of the breath, and then to extend the exhalation by drawing the rib cage inward to fully empty the lungs.

When I taught my new students about breathing I would encourage them to BREATHE SLOWER, as a starting point.

I believe that to develop “stress free breathing”, we sometimes need to focus simply on breathing slower, as opposed to breathing deeper. Try the following next time you become aware of feelings of stress, tension or shallow breathing: JUST SLOW DOWN. Relax, and don’t force your breathing -it must not feel uncomfortable in any way. Just breathe normally, preferably through the nostrils, but through the mouth is fine if you need to, and allow your breathing to slow down slightly. Feel free to sigh or yawn if you feel the urge- those are good stress relievers too. Continue reading

Simple, Natural: DIY dishwasher detergent

I’ve been using this formula for about a year now in my Bosch Automatic dishwasher, which is by now around seven years old.  For me it’s been the best alternative (I tried a few recipes along the way) to my previous commercial brand.  It’s quick and easy to make with four basic ingredients, it saves me money and is a healthier option compared to the chemically based powder I was using previously.  I also use use less: One tablespoon is sufficient for a load, whereas my previous brand took about three tablespoons.  I have also replaced my previous rinse-aid with good old white vinegar, so a greener, healthier option and a money saver there too 🙂

 

 

Notes on Ingredients and Suppliers:

  • See ‘Suppliers and Outlets’ at the foot of this page to source your ingredients.
  • Remember to consider the issue of packaging: ask your suppliers if they will accept returns on reusables, before resorting to the recycling bins.
  • Don’t overlook the supermarket brands: for instance Robertsons and Moirs use cardboard and paper packaging for their Bicarbonate of Soda and some other salts, as opposed to plastic.

 

Baking soda/ Bicarbonate of Soda: one and the same

 

 

Ingredients and Instructions

Mix and store in an airtight container:

  1. 1 cup washing soda
  2. 1 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda in ZA)
  3. 1 cup citric acid
  4. A half cup of table salt.

Continue reading

How to clean with fragrant essential oils

Today being Thursday, it’s the first time since going down with flu at the weekend that I’ve felt like doing much at all. At least today I feel as if I can face the day and hopefully get a few things done.

Following a short morning walk, I felt encouraged to make a start on the cleaning backlog that has accumulated since the weekend. I swept the kitchen floor and packed a load of dirty dishes into the dishwasher. I then put a load of laundry into the machine, filling the rinse compartment with white vinegar to which I add three drops of peppermint essential oil. I have used vinegar in place of softener for years but have never quite learnt to ignore the strong smell of vinegar, and I find that the peppermint with its lovely sweet-shop freshness is an effective way to mask the smell.

I have used essential oils for years. I love the little jewel- like glass bottles with their wonderful scents, and their multitude of uses.  See here for more on essential oils and their uses, and read Valerie Ann Worwood’s book here, also known as “The Fragrant Pharmacy”

Years ago in my twenties I learnt to use and enjoy essential oils while trying to solve a few health issues of my own (see my About page for more), and for the thirty plus years since then I used them daily, if only to splash a few drops of the relaxing floral, herbaceous scent of lavender into my bath water at night. Continue reading

Multipurpose: Silky Smooth Salt Scrub

 

Late August in Johannesburg: the tail end of winter and everything has dried out: the air, the vegetation, the skin and the hair! I crave that bit of extra moisture at this time of the year: Coconut oil in my breakfast oats, grapeseed oil on the face (real virgin grapeseed oil is beautifully light and easily absorbed) and whatever cooking oil I have in the kitchen  as a body moisturiser (I typically throw together some olive, sunflower and canola, and store it in a glass jar in the bathroom), pure shea butter in a small jar next to my bed (for me this is the best rich hand creme, and I like to rub some into my hands before turning out the lights)

 

*And then this moisturising scrub and shave….. perfect for silky smooth legs or as a body exfoliant in the bath or shower*…………………

Simply mix and store in a jar-

  • 450 grams (about 2 cups) epsom salts: (the Robertsons brand is sold at supermarkets in cardboard packaging, or see SUPPLIERS AND OUTLETS below)
  • 180 ml (three/quarters cup) light oil such as canola, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, sweet almond (cooking oil is fine)
  • And that’s it! This makes a great shaving oil and/ or exfoliating body scrub. Just use in the bath or shower as you would any commercial brand. 

(Here’s the link to the original recipe)

 

To make this recipe a little more special and interesting (as I did as a birthday gift for my cousin), try adding the following……………

 

  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract (natural is best, but the synthetic ‘baking ingredients’ essence is fine)
  • A sprinkling of rooibos tea leaves (just open a tea bag if you cant source the loose tea leaves)

Continue reading