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

Simple meditation: no yoga mat required

 

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In my garden: Granadilla fruit and flower

Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.

In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”  

 

Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.

So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?

I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: 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

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.

Continue reading

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.

 

 

 

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

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