“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! Hereandhere are some fun and inspired ideas on creative upcycling at home.
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 9herefor suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:
3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasherdetergent 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 recipehere , 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.
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).
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:
A food thermometer to test to 45°C, OR..
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.
More simple, do-able suggestions for a Greener lifestyle:
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.
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.
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 FLMParkmeadows. I love vanilla essence: I add it hot drinks, breakfast oats, home made custard and even to bath and body products as explainedHere
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.
I’ve been using this formula for about a year now in my Bosch Automatic dishwasher, which is by now around seven years old. For me it’s been the best alternative (I tried a few recipes along the way) to my previous commercial brand. It’s quick and easy to make with four basic ingredients, it saves me money and is a healthier option compared to the chemically based powder I was using previously. I also use use less: One tablespoon is sufficient for a load, whereas my previous brand took about three tablespoons. I have also replaced my previous rinse-aid with good old white vinegar, so a greener, healthier option and a money saver there too 🙂
Notes on Ingredients and Suppliers:
See ‘Suppliers and Outlets’ at the foot of this page to source your ingredients.
Remember to consider the issue of packaging: ask your suppliers if they will accept returns on reusables, before resorting to the recycling bins.
Don’t overlook the supermarket brands: for instance Robertsons and Moirs use cardboard and paper packaging for their Bicarbonate of Soda and some other salts, as opposed to plastic.
Today being Thursday, it’s the first time since going down with flu at the weekend that I’ve felt like doing much at all. At least today I feel as if I can face the day and hopefully get a few things done.
Following a short morning walk, I felt encouraged to make a start on the cleaning backlog that has accumulated since the weekend. I swept the kitchen floor and packed a load of dirty dishes into the dishwasher. I then put a load of laundry into the machine, filling the rinse compartment with white vinegar to which I add three drops of peppermint essential oil. I have used vinegar in place of softener for years but have never quite learnt to ignore the strong smell of vinegar, and I find that the peppermint with its lovely sweet-shop freshness is an effective way to mask the smell.
I have used essential oils for years. I love the little jewel- like glass bottles with their wonderful scents, and their multitude of uses. See here for more on essential oils andtheir uses, and read Valerie Ann Worwood’s bookhere, also known as “The FragrantPharmacy”
Years ago in my twenties I learnt to use and enjoy essential oils while trying to solve a few health issues of my own (see my Aboutpage for more), and for the thirty plus years since then I used them daily, if only to splash a few drops of the relaxing floral, herbaceous scent of lavender into my bath water at night. Continue reading →
Late August in Johannesburg: the tail end of winter and everything has dried out: the air, the vegetation, the skin and the hair! I crave that bit of extra moisture at this time of the year: Coconut oil in my breakfast oats, grapeseed oil on the face (real virgin grapeseed oil is beautifully light and easily absorbed) and whatever cooking oil I have in the kitchen as a body moisturiser (I typically throw together some olive, sunflower and canola, and store it in a glass jar in the bathroom), pure shea butter in a small jar next to my bed (for me this is the best rich hand creme, and I like to rub some into my hands before turning out the lights)
*And then this moisturising scrub and shave….. perfect for silky smooth legs or as a body exfoliant in the bath or shower*…………………
Simply mix and store in a jar-
450 grams (about 2 cups) epsom salts: (the Robertsons brand is sold at supermarkets in cardboard packaging, or see SUPPLIERS AND OUTLETS below)
180 ml (three/quarters cup) light oil such as canola, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, sweet almond (cooking oil is fine)
And that’s it! This makes a great shaving oil and/ or exfoliating body scrub. Just use in the bath or shower as you would any commercial brand.
1. Wash out your empty glass jars (the ones you bought your pickles or olives in) and reuse:
Kitchen: dry goods such as nuts and lentils, grated cheese, yoghurt etc
Bathroom: Salts, Scrubs and Oils (see my individual recipes…coming up in future posts)
Garden Shed/Garage: small nails and bolts, granular fertilisers, seed for garden birds etc
2. Can’t get the sticky label off the empty jar? Here’s what works for me:
Soak the empty jar in hot water, or run it through your automatic dishwasher.
Peel off as much of the label as possible.
Make a paste of baking soda (bicarb) and dish washing liquid (dish soap). Smear this over the sticky area and leave for a half hour or longer. Wipe off with a cloth.
If that doesn’t do the trick, smear a thick layer of peanut butter over the remaining sticky bits (it’s messy so I use the back of a spoon to do this). Leave the peanut butter to do its work for half an hour or longer.
Wipe off with a damp cloth or else paper towels or newspaper, and throw the paper straight into your compost bin.
Essential oils also well at removing adhesives. Just dab a few drops onto the corner of a dry cloth and rub the sticky spots. Try a light citrus oil such as orange or lemon. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils are other favourites to use in cleaning recipes.
Having signed the pledge earlier this month, I last week received an email from Story ofStuff, 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 HereandHere.
I had another read of them myself just now, to refresh my memory as to how I started out a month ago.
Saturday 10/06/2017: Today we took a trip to Impala Fruit and Veg at 177 Beyers Naudé Drive, Northcliff, Johannesburg. The plan was to reuse my own packaging, and to add zero of the shop’s plastic to my grocery basket. I packed a few small plastic bags I have in stock at home and re-use often, and some cloth carrier bags. I had previously visited Impala about 3 years before and had been impressed♥ at what was on offer, including fresh, canned and preserved goods, both locally sourced and imported. The great selection of delicious, nutritious goodies is still on the shelves, but I was disappointed to see how very little of their fresh produce is available without packaging, specifically without plastic. It seems that convenience and that the ‘grab andgo’ needs of shoppers is catered for but not much for those of us who are trying to reduce our consumption of plastic and unnecessary packaging. Happily, the following were available unpackaged: turnips with their greens still attached, loose tomatoes, and bunches of herbs. I also picked up the following packaged without plastic: big glass jar of dijon mustard and a tin of locally packaged dark cocoa powder. At the till, the assistant offered to remove the leaves and stems from my turnips and when I declined she agreed with me that the greens are the ‘best part of it’ ;). I was given a brown cardboard box to carry my wares home in which I was happy to take with as an alternative to the usual plastic bags. At Olivia’s, next door to Impala, I bought a few fresh bread rolls at the deli section, and placed these in a brown paper bag. I left, happy to know that I had successfully acquired ZERO shop’s plastic, and had managed to reuse all my own packaging Continue reading →