Creative Reuse: the beauty of upcycling


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.







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

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

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.



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