Buy in bulk, Re-use your packaging, Reduce waste

Spices, ground and whole
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nude Foods in Zonnebloem, Cape Town is a bulk wholefoods store, offering a plastic-free shopping experience. They sell high quality wholefoods, fresh organic produce, home and body products, minus any wasteful packaging . In their own words: “Our bulk wholefoods, health foods, and earth-friendly products are all non-GMO, plastic-free and sold by weight. Our goal is to make plastic-free shopping easy and accessible to the everyday shopper, whilst supporting local suppliers and other waste reducing initiatives”. The process is simple: scoop out from their bulk bins into your reusable container, weigh, and pay. As well as the self-service bin section, they have pantry items, household products and choose-your-own organic veg. In the war on waste that is gaining traction here and elsewhere in the world, shopping experiences like this one comes not a moment too soon.

 

 

In Johannesburg I frequently shop at Food Lover’s Market (FLM) for bulk buy fresh produce, olive oil, and some of my dry goods such as seeds, nuts and dried and spices, ground and whole. In the words of FLM Stoneridge: “Shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the things you buy. Food Lover’s Market have taken this principle to heart, re-creating the ambience of an old-fashioned marketplace in a modern theatre-of-food setting. Visiting the stores truly is an experience like no other.’
 While both Nude Foods and FLM offer unpackaged ware in self-serve bulk bins, there are some clear differences between the two. Nude Foods is very specifically a plastic-free grocery store, offering non-GMO, healthy and affordable wholefoods and earth-friendly body and home products, all sold by weight. They are also relatively new:their Facebook page was created on 5 September 2017. May they go from strength to strength! By contrast, FLM is a franchised, well established retail outlet with many branches, and it offers a huge variety of mainstream, conventionally packaged foods including the ‘big brands’ that one sees in all the well known stores. Also, importantly, they do not actively supply reusable packaging, other than the refillable glass bottles at the bulk buy area which supplies olive oil. Many people shop at FLM no doubt not particularly to avoid wasteful packaging, but simply because it’s convenient for them and they can find their familiar big brand items there. (I’m referring to the FLM outlets which I frequent here in Johannesburg… I would love to know what other people experience elsewhere in the country)
 I frequently find myself in the minority when I shop at FLM, with my reusable cloth drawstring bags and my containers which I wash out after use and reuse each time I shop from their deli section or fish counter. I’m not bothered by this though. Rather, I’m grateful that these options are open to me, even if it requires the effort of constant rinsing and reusing and of course having to carry various bits of packaging around with me when I shop. And if I fall short sometimes, or don’t find what I need in unpackaged, then packaged it is. I have realised that driving my car up and down looking for perfect Zero Waste solutions is a waste of my valuable time, not to mention the carbon waste emissions thanks to all the added driving. I’ve given up feeling guilty about the compromises, knowing that I will continue to do my bit as far as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create your eco-wardrobe: in praise of pre-owned

 

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Favourites in my wardrobe: all purchased second hand.

 

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t experience summer 24/7 here in South Africa! Some parts of the country such as Durban, a coastal city facing the Indian Ocean, is pretty warm year round, but here in Johannesburg, being inland and high lying, not so much. Just ask the thousands of visitors who arrived here without coats or jackets in June 2010 to experience the opening of the Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg! We are currently in the late stages of our Winter 2018 now. A touch of warmth in the afternoon breeze, the days becoming longer, and in the garden the winter loving Chinese Greens are beginning to flower and bolt in response to the warmer weather.

 

 

But not yet the time to pack away the winter woolies that I was folding up this morning as I started on an early Spring Clean. I have always loved knitwear, specifically in natural fabrics such as wool and cotton: cardigans and pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe, including for the summer when temperatures can drop quite a bit some evenings. For me there is nothing nicer than the soft warmth of a cosy pullover on a chilly day, or a light cardigan when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough to go all out with scarves and coats.

 

 

I buy a lot of my clothing second hand (aka: pre-worn, pre-loved) and this is purely my preference from an eco-friendly standpoint and not because I can’t afford to buy new 😉 All the above (see pic) were purchased second hand within the last 3 or 4 years, from one of two Hospice shops which I frequent here in Johannesburg. All very affordable: from 5 ZAR up to about 60 ZAR. (On the Woolworths online website a new knit top for women can cost you several hundred ZAR, and even more for wool rich items.

 

 

Details of my Wooly Babies as pictured above, left to right (NOTE: some labels incomplete or missing):

  • Woolworths, made in SA, : lambswool, nylon, angora
  • News, made in SA, : polyester, nylon
  • Woolworths, made in SA, : wool, viscose, polyamide
  • 100% Shetland wool
  • No details (no label)
  • Made in Cambodia, : cotton, acrylic
  • Smith & McGregor, : lambswool
  • Marks & Spencer, : made in China, : 100% wool

 

Lucy Siegle at theguardian.com explains it as follows: “Rewearing old clothes also displaces the need to make new virgin fibres – manufactured with oil-based petroleum or using cotton – both with hulking environmental impacts (also add in dyeing, finishing and the use of factories with dubious ethics). Buying pre-worn saves clothes from landfill and gives us an ethical way of satisfying a lust for new clothes without embracing fast-fashion culture”.

 

 

Environmental concerns aside, I also find that the quality of many second hand knitwear items is just of better quality, more unique and authentic (those one of a kind lucky finds are still out there), more likely to be natural rather than synthetic, and definitely less costly than buying new. And if I can apply just one or two of those points as a reason to buy, then purchasing second hand over new wins every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popcorn smoothie, and how to use up leftover popcorn

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In My Garden: Pelargonium Angel Eyes

I like popcorn. Its quick and easy to prepare and makes healthier eating than commercial shop bought chips and other salted snacks. Once your popcorn is popped, it just needs a shake of sea salt, or else a bit of garlic or onion salt to make it Truly Delicious. A few days I very sadly had to  abandon a freshly made batch when I had to rush out at short notice. When I arrived back home later, my popcorn was cold and unwelcoming, and also slightly soggy from the condensation that had formed on the inside of the lid of the pot. Also, I wasn’t really hungry now, as I had eaten a packet of Lays Salted Chips (delicious, but not exactly healthy or Zero Waste) in the car while driving back from my appointment.

 

But I wasn’t done with the popcorn yet: my Zero Waste conscience got me thinking about ways to Reuse or Recycle my sad batch. My other option was to Rot it on our compost heap (that’s three of the 5R’s), but I wanted to see if there were more creative options out there. So I went online and found some scrumptious ideas Here. Also Here for some non edible tips such as making a festive garland, making packing material, and feeding your garden Birdies.

 

Before you popcorn can become leftovers, you will first need to make some. Here’s how I make it at home: Continue reading

15 Green Gifting Tips for the holiday season.

With December fast approaching, the holiday season is just around the corner! And suddenly you have a long list of family/ friends to buy for, and you find that you are short on ideas (and funds!) on what to buy. I have listed below some suggestions, with links, for easy handmade gifts plus ideas for eco-friendly packaging, wrapping and tagging. All can be presented in reusable glass jars such as mason jars and simple utility jars with screw-on metal lids, and are easy to ‘dress up’ for gifting.

 

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Even staples such as cereal, vinegar, salt and dried herbs can be lovely to behold!

 

 

1. Recipe plus ingredients in a jar: The ingredients are presented in visible layers: simply mix and make.

 

2. Moisturizing Scrub And Shave: Scented with sweet vanilla. A lovely leg shave and/ or skin softening exfoliate. Contains vegetable oils, Epsom salt and vanilla extract.

 

3. Recipe for Multipurpose Bee Balm by Bea Johnson. I carry a small glass jar in my handbag/ purse for shiny, moisturised  lips and nails and to highlight and moisturise cheekbones and brows. See also her application suggestions below for wood and leather….

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4Bath salts/ shower exfoliate: (use fine sea salt, NOT coarse, if you are intending to use it as a skin scrub)…and if you want to colour your salts with all natural ingredients, see Here…..

 

5.Vanilla extract, looks cute (and smells delicious) in a small glass bottle with screw top. Add a handwritten for a simple recipe (Here’s a suggestion: add a few drops to to tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soya milk etc)  …How to make vanilla extract

 

6. Homemade muesli in a jar presented with a recipe for homemade yoghurt 

Continue reading

Even Greener: 10 more tips and tricks

 

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In my garden: Indigenous BULBINELLA (BULBINELLA FRUTESCENS OR BURN JELLY PLANT)

 

1.Loaves of bread are a staple in most households and it’s not just for sandwiches! Bread which is less than fresh can be used to make a delicious, cost saving, sweet or savoury Bread pudding. For other suggestions on waste free ways to use ends of bread see point 10 here:

 

2.Couscous is a very quick and versatile grain that can be used like rice. It requires only soaking to prepare: In a small pot, boil one cup of water (or boil one and a half cups of water if you prefer a softer grain). Add one 1 cup of couscous, stir briefly and remove from the heat, keeping the lid on. Taste for readiness after about 5 minutes; leave for longer if preferred. Enjoy as is, or add seasoning such as salt, butter, oil, herbs, spices and lemon zest. Use as you would rice as part of a main meal, or allow to cool and include in salads.

Couscous is easy to find in cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic, which is another reason to buy it! I have yet to find it in bulk buy bins, which would be even better, of course. See point 9 here for suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:

 

3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasher detergent powder, if you find you have run out of your usual: In your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, place 1 teaspoon of your usual liquid dishsoap (whichever brand you normally use for hand washing your dishes) On top of the dishsoap, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Close the detergent compartment. Then fill the rinse compartment with white spirit vinegar, and close the compartment. Wash a full load of dishes as normal. Even better is my chemical-free recipe here , which is the one I have been using regularly for over a year now, with good results.

 

4. Make your own cooling peppermint spray with water and essential oils. I carry a 100ml spray bottle with me at all times (it lives in my handbag :)), especially in hot weather. Use 100 ml of water, preferably distilled, or at least pre-boiled and cooled. Add 6 drops of peppermint essential oil and stir to combine. You can also add a large pinch of epsom salt to soften the water and assist blending of the oils with the water. (Scroll down to the foot of this page for suppliers of oils, salts and containers).

 

5. Use Tea as Self-Tan. I use normal black tea (Five Roses is a well known brand) or else the Khoisan black tea (such as their Earl Grey) which is produced in South Africa. If you are a well established Zero Waster, you will no-doubt favour loose teas, as opposed to teabags. At the moment I use both options. The teabags are the most convenient option for my Self-Tan recipe as follows: place a teabag in a cup and add a little boiling water, just enough to thoroughly moisten the teabag. Leave for at least 5 minutes for the water to draw the natural dyes from the tea leaves. Then use the teabag like a sponge to ‘paint’ the dye onto the legs. I find this is the perfect way to add a little pop of colour to winter white legs. Be sure not to add cremes, lotions or oils to the skin just before self-tanning, so that the colour can be applied smoothly.

 

6. Make use of Wiki-How! Here is one of my recent searches on using leftovers…. Continue reading

Make yoghurt in a thermos flask (two ingredients)

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In my garden: Kumquat fruit and blossom

 

Natural yoghurt is a probiotic rich food invaluable in assisting normal gut health. It also offers skincare benefits when used topically and can be used straight out of the jar as a facial wash or treatment. And yoghurt is not just for breakfast: It is delicious in cooking, baking, marinades, salad dressings and can even be used as a healthy replacement for oils and butters. 

 

I have been making my own yoghurt on and off for years, and have recently done so with a new enthusiasm since the call to action to reduce plastic and make use of reusables instead of single use plastic containers which are the common packaging for supermarket yoghurt. And as it’s homemade by me, I know exactly what’s in there and can be assured of its wonderful healthy benefits and delicious taste. I try to make eco-wise choices when purchasing the milk that will eventually become my homemade yoghurt. Fresh milk from the Farmers Market is first prize, but this is not always possible. I often buy my milk in large 3 Litre (.793 gallon) containers from PicknPay or Woolworths, which translates into less plastic in the long run. I then dispense the milk into smaller glass bottles which I freeze until needed. (See my post here for more about freezing in glass).

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Frozen milk in bottles

 

 

My Homemade Yoghurt Recipe is adapted from this book on South African cookery which was my cooking bible when I first lived on my own in my early twenties:

Ingredients and Instructions: Heat 250 ml full cream milk to boiling, and remove from the heat when the froth starts to rise. Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk into the flask and stir for a few seconds to reduce the heat slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of shop bought or homemade yoghurt to the flask and stir in with the milk. This is now your yoghurt starter. Allow the remaining milk to cool to the correct temperature in one of two ways:

  1. A food thermometer to test to 45°C, OR..
  2. The ‘fingertip test’ as follows: by inserting the little finger for a count of 10, by which time the heat from the milk will ‘sting’ the finger. In my experience it takes at least 6 minutes for the milk to cool, depending on the surrounding temperature.

Now you are ready to add the milk to the yoghurt starter. First remove the skin that might have formed over the milk, pour the milk into the flask and stir it just a few times to blend with the starter. Screw the lid onto the thermos and leave the yoghurt to ‘brew’ for 7-9 hours, or till set. Once set, scoop your yoghurt into a glass jar and refrigerate.

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Delicious, creamy, homemade yoghurt

 

Continue reading

Eco options: start with what you already know

 

In my garden: Apple Blossoms

Don’t get complicated.

I imagine 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: Continue reading

And another 10 Green Tips and Tricks…

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?

 

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

How to be Green: 10 More Tips and Tricks.

 

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