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…..

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 Page 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

Plastic Free July, and beyond.

 

Why is plastic getting a bad press, and should we consider reducing our plastic consumption and even cut it out of our lives where possible? Personally I have been trying to do just that over the past few months, starting with my signing of this petition along with millions of others who signed the pledge to reduce their plastic usage.

The pledge reads: “I pledge to avoid single-use plastic, to reuse or recycle the plastic that I do use, to educate others about plastic waste, and to take Citizen Muscle actions to make plastic a thing of the past. ”

Over a number of years I have become more aware of the problems that plastics create for our environment, and when I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I became particularly alarmed. The facts are sobering and depressing and leave no doubt that environmentally, and in terms of  its effects on human health, plastic is a growing disaster. As stated in Life Without Plastic

“Most plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques that destroy fragile ecosystems. The manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.”

 

In choosing to take a pragmatic approach to managing my own plastic consumption, I have compiled a simple list of ten points:

  1. Carry a few reusable bags with you and say No to the supermarket’s plastic carrier bags. This is one of the easiest ways to get started and to motivate yourself to do more.
  2. If you REALLY NEED to purchase a juice/soda/water refreshment while you’re out on your travels, buy the tinned version, not the plastic bottle or cup. And forego the plastic straw!
  3. Buy wine in glass bottles with real cork stoppers or metal caps, rather than the plastic sack version. Some brands are available in 1.5L bottles, from Johannesburg’s Makro and other outlets.
  4. Buy from farmers markets whenever possible. Here you have the best chance of buying fresh produce without stickers on the fruit and veg, and of being able to make use of your own packaging.
  5. Return plastic packaging wherever possible, for instance return yoghurt tubs and egg trays to vendors at farmers markets if you have bought from them previously.
  6. Buy from roadside vendors. In Johannesburg there are a lot of people selling good quality fruit and veg at the roadside. I buy from those who carry unpackaged stock or who use cardboard/paper packaging only.
  7. Stop buying the branded plastic-packaged, ready sliced loaves of bread from the supermarket. Rather buy an unpackaged loaf from the bakery section, ask the assistant for a paper bag or use you own, and cut the loaf into slices when you get home. This saves plastic and money…far cheaper.
  8. Buy cheese from the cheese counter/deli section at the supermarket. Ask them to cut, weigh and price a piece for you, and wrap it in brown paper or your own packaging.
  9. Buy from bulk bins wherever possible, preferably using reusable packaging or your previously used plastic packaging from home.
  10. Buy Big. For instance, I use large amounts of white vinegar in the home (more about that in a later post). I have started buying it in 5L plastic containers rather than in the 750ml containers that I used to buy.  This saves plastic, because far less plastic goes into making one 5L container as opposed to several small containers. And saves money, cos it’s just cheaper that way.

 

Here is my week’s shop from Food Lover’s Market in Parkmeadows last week. 100% my own reused packaging from home. NO supermarket’s plastic at all, including the cheese and frozen fish.

FL01july17

 

And here is their stock of bulk spices and dried herbs, where you can dispense what you need and  they will weigh and price for you. They also have large vats of  plain and flavoured olive oils where you can refill your own container.

FL01july17 1

 

So, how are you managing to cut back on your use of plastic this July? I would love to hear your suggestions, success stories, even your failures and frustrations, especially if you’re a South African going Greener ♥

It’s worth remembering that:

the best way to reduce plastic in our lives is to refuse it in the first place