Creative Reuse: the beauty of upcycling

 

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In my garden: winter annual Pansies

 

“There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

 

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. (wikipedia)

 

RECREATE is an interior design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa, where they specialise in turning “trash into treasure”. By salvaging worn out or otherwise unwanted items from various sources including homes, warehouses and rubbish tips, they source discarded pieces which are then upcycled into beautiful new creations with a brand new purpose. Nothing goes to waste, and even their packaging materials, labels and business cards are reused, recycled and repurposed.

 

 

 

Read here for more on Recreate’s commitment to their craft and feast your eyes on some of their gorgeous creations.

 

In 2018 the market is abundant with beautiful and innovative designs, excellent craftsmanship and the reuse of  unusual and unexpected items such as fridges, bicycles, and kitchen sinks. And with a few tools at home and an inclination towards DIY you may even surprise yourself! Here and here are some fun and inspired ideas on creative upcycling at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connected to nature: Its part of our Humanity

 

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In my garden: Pelargonium Angel-eyes

 

British naturalist and environmental writer Michael McCarthy explores the powerful feelings nature can stir in us in our day to day lives: “They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

 

In his book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy,  Michael Mcarthy writes about his passion for nature beginning in his difficult early childhood and continuing into adulthood, and he presents us with some hard facts about our dwindling natural resources. He expresses his deep concern for the future of our natural world and his insistence that as a “resource” nature is far more than an exploitable asset but a true source of joy and connectedness.

 

“Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity,” Rachel Carson, a 20th century marine biologist who was truly in love with nature, and unselfconscious in her “preoccupation with the wonder and beauty of the earth.”

Both of these wonderful, devoted pioneers believed that despite everything we are still essentially nature’s children, and that the natural world is not separate from us, it is part of us. They believed that if we truly look out with our hearts and our minds to the beauty and realities of our precious world, we will connect more and more with our own ‘loving nature’ and become less tolerant of the neglect and destruction that is so commonly part of what we call progress.

Read more about their research and writings on Maria Popova‘s wonderful website: Brainpickings- an inventory of the meaningful life.

 

Living plastic-free: How to settle for good, not perfect.

 

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In My Garden: Cycad (Broodboom)

 

” It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result..” _MAHATMA GHANDI.

 

 

In 2007 a woman called Beth Terry wrote a letter to her city council member in Oakland, California, opting for the banning of plastic bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets in her area. Since then she has to date turned out a total of 746 blog posts, all centered around ways to reduce the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our environment, with a strong emphasis on reducing our own individual plastic footprints. And her blog is just one aspect of her site myplasticfreelife.com, which is a comprehensive resource for plastic-free living. She makes the point that our actions matter. Our efforts count. Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed into inaction does not help. Don’t be paralyzed by perfectionism; you will end up feeling discouraged and frustrated, believing that your efforts towards creating positive change are pointless. Read below to where she discusses this very issue:

 

The reality is that there is a lot of hidden plastic that we inadvertently consume every day simply by being alive in this modern age.  If you ever eat in a restaurant, you consume plastic.  If you buy anything from a store, you consume plastic… even if you buy it from a bulk bin.  Because often, the foods in the bulk bins come shipped in great big plastic bags.  And even if they weren’t, there was probably some plastic involved in growing the food in the first place.  Organic farmers may have used plastic sheeting to keep out the weeds.

The idea of living a plastic-free life is not to become so perfect at avoiding plastic that you feel smug about yourself.  Realizing just how unavoidable plastic is when you really trace back the life cycle of a product can wipe that smug grin off your face and provide a humbling perspective.  Our personal actions DO make a difference, though.  I know it can be tempting to say, “Oh, the problem is so big, I might as well give up.”  Don’t.

Read the full post here, and take a moment to remind yourself that it’s perfectionism that is pointless, and it’s the action, the effort, that is important.

 

 

Loving my garden: nature at my fingertips

 

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In my garden: ornamental grasses

“….Everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”— May Sarton.

Autumn 2018 in the Southern Hemisphere will begin on Tuesday 20 March. I am in awe of the splendour of my garden as we reach the last few days of our glorious summer weather here in Johannesburg. I am grateful for the hail and rains that have fed my garden; the breathtaking lightning and thunderstorms so typical of our Highveld weather. I am grateful for the sunshine that has helped bring out the best of what the garden has to offer: herbs and veggies in abundance, flowers on their best display, insects, spiders, frogs and lizards, birds and birdsong. I am grateful for our hard work and patience (yes, we have had to help our garden along over time, helped it to recover from the years of neglect, built up the impoverished soil that we inherited when we took this property on just over four years ago). And nature is a marvel, because it will come back. The joy and abundance that I experience as I look out from my back door makes every moment of hard grind feel worth it.

 

I trust you enjoy the pictures below. Each one snapped by me today or yesterday 🙂

 

 

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Blue Felicia Daisy

 

 

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Kiepersol (Cabbage Tree), Aloes and Comfrey
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Spanish Daisy with Ladybird

 

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Pond Grasses
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Variety of Succulents

 

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Transvaal Aloe (and our cottage at the back)

 

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Crocosmia aurea

 

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Porkbush and Pelargonium

 

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English walnut: ready to harvest

 

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Bulbanella and Spanish Daisy

 

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Pink Gaura Butterfly Bush

 

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Succulent in Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

My no-plastic pledge: 1 month later.

 

Having signed the pledge earlier this month, I last week  received an email from Story of Stuff, asking me to give feedback on my plastic-free efforts for that month. And here is a nice link featuring some hints and tips on going zero plastic: worth looking at, even if you didn’t sign the pledge!

Earlier this month I wrote two posts that relate to the subject Here and Here.

I had another read of them myself just now, to refresh my memory as to how I started out a month ago.

Since then I have learnt a few things: Continue reading