Plastic Free July is upon us

It is almost July and plastic free july is a challenge some of us has pledged for.

“Imagine a world without plastic waste. That’s our mission – to build a global movement that dramatically reduces plastic use and improves recycling, worldwide.

​Will you join us and give up single-use plastic this July?”

This started in 2011 and now is in 150 countries, which is impressive. The idea is to get rid of disposable, go reusable and never look back.

I have also pledged but it is probably easier for us than some as we have been doing almost all the actions already for some time. Here are the things we do and it will also be counted for Plastic Free July 🙂

  1. No Bottled water: We religiously have been staying away from bottled water. First because it is unnecessary in most cases where you have access to clean water and can fill up a bottle, a cup or even use your hands to drink. I can argue any bacteria in your hand is far more benign than those in the bottled water. Second, the exact bacteria we talked about and many more toxins. I was just in an event with a scientist and he confided in me that any plastic out there is non-BPA Free (or it has BPA) and hence when warmed, i.e. under the sun or in a microwave will release all the toxins in it to the food it is containing and these toxins are not made for human consumption. Even BPA Free plastics are dangerous when put in a microwave so we started avoiding warming up anything in a plastic container in microwave. Back to the original point, there is no good reason to use bottled water, if you are in a place with no water, not even a dirty body of water that you can use personal filtering tools like those people use in camping, then maybe but except this extreme case your day to day life should be bottled water free 🙂
  2. Plastic bags: only convenient and the sheer number of plastic bags around us might entice you to use one as they are no good for anything. They can replaced with reusable bag for any usage so why not switch now. In Australia, the two big supermarkets finally pulled the plug on the soft plastic bags at the check outs but they still use them for online shopping and the grocery section which is either hypocritical or one could say one step at a time. Either way, at least something has been done. I even go further and try to divert already used plastic bags, banners, posters and so on from landfill by turning them into big reusable shopping bags.
  3. Plastic cutlery: this is hard to avoid unless you are carrying your own cutlery which is super easy and  cool as you can get the cutest cutlery and holders for your bag with cute shapes and colours. I got one for my now 17 month old daughter but have been using it myself ever since 😀 it has also extra space so I put extra/back up for us when we go out. I have to admit in this category, the wooden chopsticks that are not plastic are as much prolific so try avoiding those too.
  4. Cups/Coffee Cups: Thanks to KeepCup and FrankGreen these reusable coffee cups are fashionable now so more people use them but still a lot of people around me use disposable every now and then. I tend to sit in the coffee shop and drink my coffee when I dont have my reusable with me, have to note, you dont need KeepCup or any fancy pants cup, just a mug can work well.
  5. Straws: have to admit this one is not on my radar. First, I dont use straws ,just drink from a cup or bottle or glass. Second, I dont go clubbing so I never get a drink that needs straw anyway, so it might be easy for me to toss the disposable for good but not for some one that has straws in thei life. You tell me. Anyhow, there are reusable stainless steel straws in the market now that people include them int heir cutlery set, that could be for you is straws are big in your life.

Step 3. Reuse

This step is a very obvious but also innovative step in a zero waste journey. You know that recycling is not the answer and it is by itself a wasteful process and you know you should reuse stuff before chucking them in landfill or recycling bins. YES, I did put those two bins next to each other, they are both wasted, unfortunately!!!

However, finding ways to reuse stuff are difficult and sometimes need lots of research and time to figure another way of reusing something.

I decided to post on stuff that I ended up reusing so here goes the REUSING SERIES 🙂

Make your own period pad by reusing old clothing

A typical woman uses roughly more than 11,000 feminine hygiene products, tampons or pads, in her lifetime. That’s just for ONE FEMALE. That’s a lot of waste in landfill and tons of money out of pocket. We are talking about mountains and mountains of pads, tampons and baby nappies and grown up nappies in the landfill, where they don’t really belong to be honest.

Reusable pads are easier to use, more breathable, funner to wear as they come in different prints, colors and feels. You can mix and match with what you are wearing or how you are feeling that day. You can choose to have snaps on them or Velcros but there is no toxic plastic and glue next to your lady part so PHEW!!! In general, reusable cloth pads last longer, look nicer and feel softer plus protect better.

You might say, why I am not talking about menstrual cups?

Well for start, we are reusing material here, remember, second, if you are a tampon girl cups are perfect but if you are not, then pads are the only way to go.

Also, cloth pads are perfect for postpartum wear, I should know cos I used them for specifically this purpose. I used the longer and thicker overnight pads at that time. Many women soak their pads in soothing formulations to wear against their skin to promote comfort and healing after giving birth. I didn’t because I am lazy and plus I think they are pretty soft and nice already. And cloth postpartum pads seem to be a natural choice for women who choose cloth diapers for their babies.

Some pads are made leak-resistant by the thickness of their fabrics. Other cloth pads have a waterproof lining, so they require less cotton fabric than pads with no waterproof backing. The thickness of the pad also varies based on the flow level the pads are designed for, and whether they’re an all-in-one system or have adjustable inserts.

Cloth pads might seem expensive at first, but considering a typical women can expect to deal with 35 years of menstruation during their lifetime. That can cost her thousands of dollars in disposable products over time. When she switches to cloth pads, she will spend a lot less on feminine hygiene there onward.

So if you are convinced that reusable cloth pads are the way to go, grab an old T-shirt to up-cycle. You can use PUL (PolyUrethane Laminate) as the water proof layer as it is a type of laminated fabric. Or you can just go thick by adding more layers and leak proof it like that. It all depends on you and your flow.

Grab a pattern and cut away your material, sew them back together per the pattern and Voilá, you have a free reusable cloth pad.

If you want to join a group of people and sew away your cloth pad together, come along to our next get together and sew your free pad with us, all material will be provided but feel free to bring a shirt to reuse.

Making your own deodorant and other beauty products

Today I had another successful workshop with this lovely bunch, making our own hand-made non-toxic beauty and hygiene products.

These are the material we used and their pros and cons 😉

We all made a decision there to remove toxins and chemicals that we don’t know from our daily life and stick with what we know and known for generations. If you want to join our next class, visit here.

Hence we used these:

Baking Soda

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate can help your skin in many ways. Adding a little bit to your bath water can help you deal with scaly skin and soothe itchy skin. A baking soda solution can also be used to exfoliate skin, soften calluses, and clean inflamed skin. And it may help brighten dull and darkened skin when used with lemon juice. Baking soda also works as a natural alternative to antiperspirants.

Benefits of Baking Soda For Skin

  • Deals with scaly skin
  • Soothes itchy skin
  • Exfoliate
  • Brightens complexion
  • Handles sweaty skin

Do A Skin Test First

Baking soda is generally safe for your skin. However, it can cause irritation in some people. It is, therefore, a good idea to do a patch test first to see how your skin takes it. Also, don’t apply baking soda to broken skin without checking with your doctor first.

Coconut Oil

Reported Benefits

According to Lita Lee, PhD, coconut oil has many benefits that were unrealized until studies were done on island populations who ate diets high in coconut oil. Some of the benefits Lee cites for dietary intake of coconut oil include thyroid stimulating effects; anti-aging properties; decreased levels of LDL cholesterol; antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties that prevent illness; anti-cancer effects; and weight loss as the result of thyroid stimulation. Many of the benefits of coconut oil may be due largely to the presence of lauric acid, a fatty acid present in breast milk that confers many of the immune and health benefits to breastfed babies. None of these reported benefits have been evaluated by the FDA.

Reported Drawbacks

The primary drawback to coconut oil is its saturated fat content, with 11.8 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat intake is one of the main dietary causes of high cholesterol. The Association recommends that you limit saturated fats — including tropical oils like coconut and palm oil — in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, your saturated fat intake should be no more than 15 grams. A 1-tablespoon serving of coconut oil comes close to 100 percent of the recommended amount. Another disadvantage to coconut oil consumption is its high caloric density: one gram of fat has nine calories while one gram of protein or carbohydrates has four calories. If you are consuming coconut oil, then you are eating more than twice the calories you could get from equal amounts of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

Jojoba Oil

What is jojoba oil and how is it made ? Jojoba oil comes from the seeds of a plant scientifically known as Simmondsia chinensis that grows in northern Mexico and south western US. It is extracted by cold pressing and processed into liquid wax used in many cosmetic products such as creams and lotions. It is similar to other vegetable oils and contains all wax esters, vitamin E and phospholipids.

This wonder oil has an incredibly long shelf life compared to other vegetable oils and can be stored for long without degrading. It has a few special characteristics that make it very essential.

Tumeric

Proven beauty benefits from Turmeric

There are many proven benefits that can be acquired from turmeric and its by-products. But when it comes to beauty, it is essential to know how turmeric acts as a resource to add beauty to your tone.

Anti-Bacterial Agent – Turmeric

The turmeric is widely considered to have antibacterial properties in it which prevents the various bacteria and germs to enter our body and also has the capability of destroying the bacterial organisms which are already present in our body. This ensures in maintaining the safeness of the skin and are also applied to various small injuries like burns and small cuts without damaging the skin.

Anti-Aging

Anti-aging has now become one common and a major problem among youths and people who are at a very young age in today’s world. There are several factors which contribute to the anti-aging including the healthy diet, pollution, stress and the environment. These are the major factors which are the main causes for creating dryness in the skin. Turmeric can be mixed with water and be applied to your skin like a face pack to reduce these problems. The making of paste and applying it all over the body is a common practice followed from the ancient cultures in many countries like the India.

Facial Hair Control

The growth of hair in face for men is common as it looks like a beard or a mustache,whereas they feel uncomfortable with the growth of hair in their faces. In order to reduce the growth of hair, turmeric can be used as a supplement when mixed with water and applied regularly can show better results in quick time. This not only reduces the development of hair in the face but also protects the skin from pollution and other infections without easily getting exposed.

Lavender Essential Oil

Pros

Act as bug repellent: Lavender oil has its specific smell which is irritating to the bugs like mosquitos, moths and midges. Applying the lavender essential oil on bare skin can help you prevent bug bites. They are even helpful in treating bug bites and reducing irritation and pain.

Regulates sleep disorders: Lavender essential oil is a great home remedy for treating sleep disorders. It is soothing and relaxing and promotes a deep sound sleep after inhaling its scent for half an hour before going to bed. It is also used for treating insomnia.

Promotes healthy nervous system: A number of nervous system functions are regulated with the help of lavender essential oil. It treats migraines and headaches along with reducing the feelings of stress and anxiety among blood pressure and heart patients. It lowers the BP and heart rate promoting better mood and healthy nervous system.

Best for acne treatment: Acne occurs because of bacterial infection which becomes worse when the acne starts feeding on face sebum. Lavender essential oil control over excretion of sebum and reduces bacteria resulting in less acne.

Cons

Causes Breast Growth in Boys: One big con of using lavender essential oil is that it causes breast growth in boys which is undesirable among males.

Skin Irritation: Constant use of lavender oil causes skin irritation and allergic reactions among the people with sensitive skin.

Causes Nausea: Consuming lavender oil can be toxic and it causes nausea and vomiting as well.

Frankincense Essential Oil

(Botanical name: Boswellia carterii)

Frankincense essential oil is extracted from the sap of the Boswellia tree. This tree grows natively in Somalia, Yemen and Oman. The tree is intentionally wounded to produce the sap needed for oil extraction.

It takes about a hundred kilos (220 pounds) of frankincense sap/resin to get about 10 kilos (22 pounds) of essential oil.

What is Frankincense essential oils used for? First of all, it contains alpha (and beta) pinene, sabinene, limonene and myrcene. They are all active molecules with specific actions. Thus, the benefits of Frankincense oil are very diverse.

One of Frankincense’s benefits is that it can calm down inflammations. It has strong anti-inflammatory effects that act almost immediately. This ability helps the immune system respond to sudden external aggression.

The oil is also great at forming scar tissue. The alpha-pinene increases the ability to repair the skin and other soft tissue. The oil can prevent bacterial infections and inflammations. Thus, the scab of a wound is formed faster and the healing process sped up.

Another great benefit of Frankincense is its immune boosting effect. It strengthens the body’s natural defense mechanism and makes it more resistant.

Frankincense can also make body secretions more fluid and promotes their elimination. This effect helps clear the respiratory system from phlegm and mucus.

Frankincense is great at relaxing the nerves and muscle tissue. This favors a good sleep and anxiety relief.

The oil of Frankincense can also help with depression.

 

Jasmin Oil

The heady jasmine oil has quite the reputation as an aphrodisiac. But this precious oil can do much more for you. Use jasmine oil to improve your mood, lower anxiety, relieve sore muscles, and ease menopausal symptoms. Jasmine oil can work for your skin and hair as well, helping moisturize, soothe, and nourish them. A massage with jasmine oil can reduce pain during the first stage of labor.

Benefits of Jasmine Oil

  • Relieves sore muscles
  • Improves your mood
  • Lowers anxiety
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms
  • Nourishes your skin
  • Smooths frizzy hair

 

More on this topic in a future post 🙂

Zero waste living in an apartment

This topic was requested by one of our readers/followers and I think it is a very appropriate topic as nowadays more and more people are living in apartments/units and places that don’t necessary have backyards, balconies or an outside area for gardening, composting or alike.

I lived in an apartment for as long as I remember, some of them had balconies, some had tiny backyards, some had none. I was in various stages of my zero waste journey and in any of these stages somehow I managed to move forward in an apartment.

Here are  my tips and tricks for zero waste living in apartments:

First make a plan

This is not different from the first step of 5R, the method that I initiated and follow. Make sure to have your goals set, communicated with those that live with you in the apartment, either your family or your roommates. Write what you want to achieve down and have it somewhere visible to everyone.

Then go through your lifestyle, your shopping, your eating and your work habits and identify points that you can improve upon in order to achieve your set goal. Make sure everyone take part in this exercise otherwise they will feel left out and that you are forcing your goals on them.

So now that you have a goal and you have ways to work towards that goal, it’s time to make plan for improving those things.

For example, you goal is to lower your organic waste in landfill:

One way is to compost, if you have a balcony with a shady area you can make or buy a worm farm (small one) but make sure to read about those (or wait for my next post on them) before committing to one as they can be high maintenance.

Another way is to get a Bokashi bin:

They are good for not too much organic waste specially offices or small apartments with few people. They don’t smell, and don’t make a mess so you can have them inside even in your kitchen.

What I did when I had a small balcony with no shady area was to get free Styrofoam Boxes from my local fruit shop and use those to bury my organic waste. It was a great bed for planting my potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs. My space was limited but as it was getting lots of oxygen, rain water and sunshine, the composting was happening so fast that I was amazed. I also composted my soap nuts in this manner:

Second reduce your consumption

What is important is we accumulate stuff when we have extra space, food, clothing, furniture, books and so on. You name it, we accumulate them all. When you live in an smaller area, for example in a small apartment, you know how valuable the space is. In another word, you value your space more than someone that has so much space doesn’t know how to fill it. So when I tell you reduce your consumption, you will thank me for it because as soon as you do this step, you feel lighter and find much more space around you that allow you to breath freely. So read on.

Reducing is not only about what we own is about what you bring into existence. If you buy something, you will bring it home in most cases and then have to put it somewhere so it will occupy space. But if you buy this thing from a shop or somewhere that is directly or indirectly connected to the manufacturer, you also trigger yourself as a customer to that manufacturer and shop. So they will plan more things for you. Even if you search for something on google, you are tipping bunch of businesses that you are potential customer so make them plan for your future when you are finally ready to make the purchase. So they go ahead and make those things for you and when you are ready they have it all packed and pretty for you. This might not seems like much in scale of one but imagine in a scale of million. Imagine if we all change behaviour and consume less. Many of unnecessary products won’t even been manufactured. Do you know how much time, resources, including energy, water and human manpower will that save.

So if you reduce your consumption in the long run you will realise that material things do not make you happy so naturally you won’t buy things that you don’t need as they don’t serve any purpose any more. If they don’t make you happy and they have no use so why should you spend your time, your money and your space on them.

This means you will only bring stuff home that you absolutely need. Hence, less waste. Because you need them so you won’t throw them out. Or you need to eat them so you eat them and the left over you compost.

You would say, what about the packaging. Well that bring me to the third:

Third reuse

The idea here is to try your hardest and get stuff that are reusable. Don’t think disposable, don’t think one time. Think always, all the time, multiples. Think bulk, think regrowth, think more than once.

Chances are packaged food are only usable once. Even if you take food from restaurant, have a container with you to bring the food home. Don’t bring disposable cutlery home where you have thousands of forks and spoons.

You might say, how about the fruit and vegetables that are in packaging. I say, AVOID THEM. Run Forest, RUN.

You can regrow most of your fresh herbs, vegetables and some of your fruit even in an apartment as long as you get some natural lights. So go to your local fruit shop and get some fresh produce. Why do you need those packaged ones any way. If any one has a purpose for those organic single sweet potato in a tray wrapped with plastic wrap in the supermarket, please comment below. Let me know so I get informed as I have no idea why those exist.

Anyway, let’s get back to reusing. So think actively about reusing things around you. Reuse all the jars you bring home, tomato pastes, pickles, pesto, other condiments. Use some of them to take soup to work (I have done this and continue to do so don’t you cringe!). Or maybe some others to make your own pickles. Don’t toss them out easily.

Reuse your old clothing that you can’t donate as rags and stop buying paper towels for the kitchen.

Reuse your milk cart and use it as watering can for your compost that you just made by reusing a Styrofoam Boxes from your fruit shop.

Reuse your plastic bags for your next trip to market or maybe make something new with them. There are tons of ways you can reuse plastic bags to make sandwich wraps, make plastic woven rugs, fuse them together and make a new more durable shopping bag.

I challenge you to look at your bin and find three things that you can reuse instead of tossing. Then try to do this on a regular basis. This will empty your bin after a while.

Want more ways to empty your bin:

Fourth start making your own… everything

I can’t say that I do make everything, specially with a 15 month old. But there was point when I was living in an apartment in Glen Eira that I did make our own everything 😉

From hummus, tomato paste, pickles to jam, cake, bread and so one.

Now I am making my own bread, so no packing come near my house for bread nor any waste go out of here as we bake fresh and eat fresh.

Most of the times, we still make our own jam. The bread and jam and also pizza dough are easy to make thanks to our bread maker machine:

We only buy bulk essential ingredients to make stuff. Like fabric then I sew a dress or design one and ask a friend to make me one. Have to admit her dresses are nicer with better finishing as she is a proper dress maker 🙂

Another challenge, for the next month actively look around you and observe what you buy on daily, weekly basis and think if you can find a way or you already know a way to make that easy and cheap. If the answer is yes, go for it. If the answer is no, find a way to do so. If you can’t find it on internet, YouTube or by asking your family and friends then keep it in your shopping list.

This will eliminate a lot of things that you had to buy and remove their associated packaging as well. Also add joy to your life as we enjoy providing for ourselves and our families. Even cake mix marketing campaigns after world war II got that right, “housewives needed to feel like a more integral part of the creative process” because they wanted to make something with their hands for their family and adding an egg and putting the icing on the made cake from the box allow them to feel like that.

But even after all these efforts, you can see a lot of packing every where, what can we do.

Recycle them if you have to

I always say recycle if you have to because recycling is not waste free. Even if we assume that what we recycle get recycled. It requires a lot of energy, water, manpower, time and other resources to make something out of recycled paper, plastic, metal and so on.

Think twice before recycling, think if you can reuse it. Or even better think even before buying it, think if you really need it and if so think if you can make it your self. So I am just repeating here but go through the steps for every single thing for two weeks and then you will do them automatically. After a month you realise a massive reduction in your house hold expenses, lots of happiness around and a lot less garbage and recycling.

Let me know what you think and if you take any of the challenges, comment on your progress and what you learn by the end.

Hope these tips help you too Laura.

 

Top 10 things to toss when you start a zero waste lifestyle

You might be interested in going zero waste but don’t know where to start or might be frightened by the enormity of the idea of no waste. I have to agree that the start point can be daunting and confusing. The fact is you always have to start somewhere and starting with this list of top 10 items to toss is an easy way to get your passion for sustainability fed and actually take a tangible step towards your zero waste lifestyle. The fact is I was in your shoes some time ago but I started my journey and tossing these items are tried and tested with 100% satisfaction.
The most important thing to remember is that the zero waste journey is a continuous one and you never have to stop if you don’t want to so you will always find new things to get rid of but to start always start with an easy one because the chances are you are not going to miss or you can replace with less wasteful options if need be.
Here goes the list that I started with and you can make your own list but these are things that you probably not going to miss or even notice being omitted from your life:

1st thing to toss: Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US, people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, and time and man power to recycle.
Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth.

2nd thing to toss: Plastic bags

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century man who was not largely as environmentally conscious as a 21st century one. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia Environment.gov.au 2010-06-13 Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and co2 emission in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.
In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled. I have to admit I hear more and more that these bags are not recycled and just dumped in landfill so don’t trust the recycling much specially as China is not buying our recycled material so less incentive for them to do proper recycling after all.

3rd thing to toss: Window cleaner

Windows get cleaned on regular bases; if counted you probably go through at least couple of bottles of window cleaner per year depending on how many windows you have, how many times a month they get cleaned and how you clean them. They are advertised as fast cleaners, grease removers and so on. Chances are the worst stain on your windows is dust and rain water marks that are easily cleaned by slightly wet newspapers. For more offensive stains you can use some diluted vinegar and a clean rag.

Cleaning low windows are easy and hazardless chores for the kids in your household. Therefore, handing them non-toxic material to work with such as diluted vinegar probably will add to your piece of mind and will not create any allergies for your kinds plus you can enjoy a cuppa when your little one(s) are fulfilling their duties! On this note, newspaper inks can be toxic so if you are putting your kids in charge of window or mirror cleaning probably stick to the vinegar and don’t use the newspaper option.

4th thing to toss: Stove cleaner/Oven cleaner

There is no need to mention that these sort of cleaning products contain chemicals that have fumes that could be harmful to general public when breath in, it is even mentioned on the cans of products purchased in supermarkets. You can save money and save your health by ditching these products altogether. Just clean your stove and oven frequently to avoid sticky mess that are stock for ages and for extra cleaning and shine use diluted vinegar.

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean stove, oven, even fridge and freezer. You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, NOPE! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house.

5th thing to toss: Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities (reference
). So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in superbugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

6th thing to toss: Coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicone or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

7th thing to toss: Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorns can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument against the use of microwavable ones.

8th thing to toss: Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilize a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead using disposable tissues.

9th thing to toss: Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 5th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk therefore reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.
Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

10th thing to toss: Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the BO at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

 

Let me know what you think about the list and if you are willing to pull the plug on these everyday items.

My Interview at GlenEira Magazine

So after I had a workshop for GlenEira City Council Staff at the their lunch time presentation event, they contacted me to ask some questions for their magazine as I was living in the area at that time.

Here is the content:

Living Sustainably by Dr Sam Shokravi

1. Why is living sustainably important to you? (for example: reduce environmental impact, save money etc)

Sustainability is our lifestyle; we decided to be as sustainable as possible long time ago because it makes sense. Why would you want to pay more, harm the environment or harm your society. You can avoid all these by very simple steps and all these mean you are living a sustainable life. I believe that this earth and all in it are gifts to us and we should take care of it, so we and those coming after us can enjoy all its goodness. When you think like that, avoiding waste in any aspect of life becomes necessary. This means wasting your money on things that are not essential, wasting your natural resources, like water, energy, and wasting your (or others’) time on worthless tasks or on spreading hatred.

2. What kinds of things do you do at home to live more sustainably?

We try to make it clear what is our goal, we want to live waste free, enjoy life and have a great time living it with others. So we think and for instance before we shop, we use shopping list and make sure not to buy things that we can easily make ourselves at home and have fun in the process of making them. We bake almost all the bread and sweet treats that we eat. Only buy the essentials from local stores or markets, usually in bulks to minimise the packaging. We also make our own cleaning products from vinegar, natural soap nuts and alike. Ultimate goal is that nothing manufactured abroad entered our house and we try our best not to have plastics in the house or at least not discard plastics (soft plastic included) in the landfill (normal trash bins) as they take more than 1000 years to discompose in the landfill and during these 1000 years they emit CO2 and methane that is one of the drivers of Climate Change.
To share our lifestyle with our guests, we give them a visitor pack which opens up a conversation about our values and why we are living this way and encourages them to do the same. So not only for the time they are staying with us but also when they go back to their own house, they apply these easy steps to their own lifestyle.

3. Do you have any plans for the future to live even more sustainably?

Our ultimate goal is to be living self sustained. That means producing all our fruit and vegetables and reuse all that we have. It is rewarding to make all that you need and spend your time enjoying all the glories in this world.
We also want to spread sustainable living to all around us so everyone can enjoy the little things as we do. This also spreads happiness and happiness means health.

We launched a new community project – MomySwaps.com

I am quite excited and busy at the same time. On Sunday night we launched a new community project, MomySwaps.com . It is a website where new parents (or any parent really) can swap baby stuff that they no longer need and get those that they need now for free.

As a new Mom, or new-ish as my daughter is now 15 month, I have a lot of used and new clothing, toys and stuff in general that I don’t know what to do with. I have donated quite a lot of them, tried to sell some of the new ones with not much success, so I am left with this urge that I want these stuff to get used and I don’t want to add to landfill or any waste (sometimes this include donation as charities receive so much stuff that they can’t even handle). So I started this new website, where you can give what you have, new/used, to someone that wants it for free. Instead get something from them for free or get something from someone else that you do need for free.

You might say, oh I have a very expensive piece of clothing and I won’t just swap it with any grubby thing. Well the idea here is not financial gain is to reduce waste and increase the useful life of your item. The “very expensive piece of clothing” that you have worth nothing to you as you can’t use it. The ” grubby thing” might be worth even more if you need it now. So don’t think financial here, think necessity and zero waste.

Based on my research this is the first time something like this is available, at least in Melbourne. And I hope people find it useful.

There is of course Gumtree for selling and buying your items but it takes for ever to find what you need and sell (if you manage to sell) what you own. Also there is always some money exchanged and you might end up spending more than you earned. In MomySwaps you don’t exchange with money. If you find a match for your item and they have what you want as well. Perfect, catch up and swap your items. If they don’t, you get a MomySwaps credit and when you find what you need, you can use the credit to get it. Again it doesn’t matter how much in dollar the swapping worth, they all are equal in the eye of the MomySwaps.com 😉

So on the Swap page you can see what there is out there and then request it. When you are match with an item you and the owner will both receive an email and get connected so you can meet up and get swapping.

The stuff are categorised into three rough groups, Clothing and Shoes, Toys and developmental gear and Everything else.

Clothing and Shoes is the first category because, we all get inundated with clothing that our babies grow out of or never get a chance to wear as they were too small to begin with. So here you can clear your storage of all of them and instead get clothing that your kids can wear now or in the near future.

Toys and developmental gear is the second group. Toys are meant for a specific age to challenge your child and entertain them at the same time. If there are toys lying around your house that your baby doesn’t even look at any more or there are those that are not apt enough for their developmental stage, then let’s swap them for something more age appropriate. Just make sure it’s not your child’s favourite teddy bear 😉

Everything else includes anything like the bathtub that is too small now, the pram that you no longer need or even your maternity clothing that you can’t wear any more, everything baby related that doesn’t come under the other two categories is listed here. It is perfect as you can easily use this category to de-cluttered quite a bit. It is the dream for all the de-cluttering junkies out there 😉

So let me know what you think, I am quite excited to know your honest opinion. As it is the first stage there is a lot to do and the site is not perfect by any stretch of imagination but we can use any help to make it work. Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2. Still reducing

As I first mentioned when started this step (i.e. Step 2), it never really finishes. Throughout years we have collected quite a number of items under the umbrella of “necessities” in our lives and getting rid of all these artificial convenience take time and dedication. In some cases it also take lots of patience and perseverance to stick with it and do not get dithered by criticism or hardships.

Other things that we are in the process of reducing are:

1. Shampoos

Shampoos are “necessities” of daily life, aren’t they? Well you do not need to wash your hair every day and in some cases every week. It obviously depend on the type of your hair and there are so many people out there that agree with this. I am in the process of reducing my washes throughout the week. Every week I try to add another day or half day to my non-wash period.

But also you don’t have to use conventional shampoo to get the job done. The way we are all conditioned to using fragrant shampoos with all these exotic aromas and empty promises of growth and smoothness and so on just shows how marketing is a powerful tool that can be misused. There is no way by using a shampoo (that last couple of minutes on your hair at best) you get the silky shine or regrowth that they entail. But we still fall for them.

Anyway, my point being look into alternatives. I can tell you about what I have experienced.:

Soap Nuts are type of berries that contain saponin, a natural detergent. The shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. I tried them a while ago and they are quite cost effective. A kilo can give you up to 35 litre of liquid (boil them in water) that can be used as shampoo (you can add essential oil to add the aroma you like), detergent, hand wash and body wash. They don’t make as much foam you are use to with conventional shampoos but do the job


If you want to get best idea about essential oils there is this free e-book that you can enjoy:

 

2. Dry shampoo

I use dry shampoo to longer my non-wash period. Now I make my own but there are lot of options out there many of them organic:

The key to using dry shampoo is to brush your hair few times a day to distribute the oil in the root of your hair to the whole length and then use the dry shampoo powder and brush again to allow the powder absorb the oil in every corner of your head. This is really useful as you don’t fee like you have greasy hair but you still haven’t wash it. So you can go about your life like you normally would.

3. All cleaning agents

I talked about these products in another post, and even though we don’t use whole lot of these kinds of products we still use detergent specially if I am washing reusable nappies as they are quite fussy and I don’t want to ruin their waterproof layer with soap nut detergent or homemade detergents. Also we use dish washer soap as distinguishing is mainly my hubby’s chore and he refuses to use anything that doesn’t foam enough in his opinion (i.e. soap nut liquid). Hence we are in the process of reducing, or convincing at this stage 🙂

4. Toothpaste

So I had problems with conventional toothpaste that have SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) not because they are carcinogen or anything (there is no proof or disproof on this). It’s just they make my mouth really dry, like seriously dry, so I changed to SLS free toothpaste and bought a few of this brand:


My plan is to make my own but before that I will give a go at the tooth cleaning powder that I heard so much about and will let you know how it goes. The reason I am changing from this toothpaste is not that I don’t love it because I do. It is fantastic but it lasts me only a month or month and a half if I really be careful with the amount I put on my brush. Disclaimer, I brush at least twice a day.
So the powder that I am going with is this one, happy to get suggestions if you out there are using something totally amazing:


5. New stuff in general

I am one of those people that can’t wear second hand clothing if I don’t know where it comes from but I have no problem buying new clothing or new stuff in general off of people who do not want them. So I became an avid second hand shopper (gumtreer). In the past year, we haven’t bought anything for the house, mainly kitchenware, that was from store. All came from people that own them, either bought them or receive them as gifts. This guarantees to get what I want as I research them and purposefully look for those items. Hence no sales person can impact my decision. Also I don’t pay the premium in-store price as these items are in the second hand category I can pay a fraction of the price and get a lot of discount if I haggle and the person I am buying from is also good recipient of haggling 😉

I also started making a lot of my own clothing also made couple of dresses for my daughter. This saves a lot of money and I get the material and design that I want. I never pay for the design (or pattern in this case), either make my own quirky pattern or search for free ones on the web.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 3)

3. Chips and Dips

Have to admit, this was difficult. I have a confession to make, my name is Sam and I was a chip addict. I had the addiction since I was in school and probably that is what led to many of my gastro problems. These problems were also the trigger to make a change in my diet and get rid of chips altogether. Goes months before I taste another one and now I pace myself, so I don’t get into the trap again. We started making our own hummus and replaced the chip with our trusty home-made bread slightly more toasted than usual. This made a great treat or snack for us and when we have company. Given hummus was my favourite dip anyway, I didn’t miss a thing at all.  As a healthy version of chip, we also considered vegetable and fruit chips but haven’t go for this one yet. I was having my eye on a fruit and vegetable dehydrator, like a one below. I will let you know if we end up getting one, let me know if you like a review of this or the bread maker that we do own and love for over three years.

4. Jam

Making our own jam. Well this one is a hit and miss, not that it is difficult to do, because it’s not. It is easy specially with our trusty bread maker. Oh Yes, it makes jam too 🙂 I told you, I am in love with it:

Right, back to jam. So jam making is easy but I am a sucker for good glass container for free. So when I see jam on sale in cute glass jars, I just get rubbery hands and buy them. I actually estimated the price of buying frozen fruit and sugar and compared it to the same amount of jam in jar from the market and it turned out to be cheaper to buy the jam and I went for it. Actually got four jars. Before you judge me, I utilise the jars for various purposes around the house and in my office. I also use them to give hand-made gifts to others.

Disclaimer: I also add a bit of pectin some time to some jams, but the price per jam is so minimal I didn’t bother mentioning.

 5. Cookies and Cakes

I might have mentioned before that I didn’t baked until I was 26, oh wait no, this was supposed to be my secret 🙁 ok between you and me, I didn’t baked until I got married.

I always wanted to, but never got to do it. So as soon as we moved to our new apartment with my hubby, we baked. It was one of those cake boxes that you buy from supermarket. The mix comes in a bag but you have to add an egg and oil the container. This is to make you feel you are actually doing the baking. This addition of egg was introduced later after few years of selling cake mix in a box after they interviewed bunch of housewives and understood that they felt guilty feeding their family cake mix cakes from a box as they thought they haven’t done enough. So they changed the recipe to eliminate the egg in the mix and ask the user to add it to the mix at the time of baking and include them in the baking process hence increasing their sense of self worth. See the power and brain of marketing.

Anyway, I digressed. So we baked and I liked it and we did this for a year or two. Until I realised, we don’t what exactly goes into this mix except the egg that I have to skilfully add. So I used my trusty cook books and started to bake the easy recipes first. I worked my way to the hard recipes eventually. And now I can follow any recipe that I find on internet. Let me know if you are interested in recipes I use and how I find them.

6. Conditioner

I think this is a girly thing so might not apply to the boys out there. But conditioner was never relevant to me. I only dyed my hair once in my life and I hated it so I never did it again and for that reason my hair didn’t get brittle or dry and I never felt the need for conditioner. So it was easy to eliminate it. This took a while, as I had bought bunch of them in bulk when they were on sale and I had to go through them before never buying again. But after that, we didn’t look back. Let me know if you have to use a conditioner, in that case I share with you a easy and quick recipe for a home made all natural conditioner that will be quite useful based on what I heard from my friends.

7. Toilet paper

This is a sensitive topic for some. Ok, let me tell you why with some cultural background. So again, I am originally Iranian and lived there most of my life. We was ourselves with water from a hose in the bathroom after going number 1 and two. Some families do dry themselves with toilet paper, but it might sock you to know that some don’t even bother. In my family we do bother  🙂

In Colombia on the other hand, like most western countries, they use toilet paper for everything. They difference between Colombia and some other western countries, for instance, Australia, is that after using toilet paper, they put it in bins, not closed bins, in massive wicker baskets that they consider bin. In Australia for example, we trow the used toilet paper down the toilet and never to be seen again.

Ok, now that you know my hubby and I came from culturally diverse background for toilet paper, you might appreciate the challenge that we had and still have in terms of replacing wasteful disposable toilet paper with reusable toilet cloths. I started this when I got pregnant as I was researching about reusable nappies and wipes and it seemed the same concept to me to use reusable toilet cloth. So I started it and by the end of that year I was exclusively using reusable cloths when I went to toilet at home.

My hubby was a different story. The idea of washing yourself with water and wiping yourself dry with a toilet cloth was strange and bizarre and unnecessary to him, still take a lot of encouragement and at the first sign of discomfort goes back.

I wash these cloths in a load of their own with high heat and 15 minutes cycles. Sometimes include reusable period pads that are rinsed or baby wipes or nappies. No complaint there.

I should probably talk to you more on the baby reusable stuff but maybe another time. Sleepy hour for me now.

Don’t forget to comment and maybe recommend the topics you want to read about. Anything zero waste and sustainability is relevant.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 2)

What took longer to eliminate

  1. Bread

So I clearly remember, it was late 2014 and by this point we were buying bread from our local bakery where shall be remain nameless. It was going well as it was package free and a relatively ok quality. Until one day we found a piece of spinach in the baguette that we bough that day. It would have been fine if my hubby didn’t mention that the baker had a piece of spinach in his teeth that day as well. ARGHHHHHHH!!!

So you know what happened we didn’t go back. Went and bough ourselves a piece of machine called bread maker, this is the one and I cannot recommend it high enough:

That changed our lives. As this trusty bread maker comes with a handy recipe book that has more than 30 types of bread, cake, jam and dough that made our lives easier, tastier and richer. We bake for people and give them when we visit them or when they come over and they seem not to get enough of our bread. We can make any type of bread, pastry, and dough including pizza, pasta, pastry and the list goes on.

The cost is not comparable with the store bough bread, no matter how fancy you go on material it won’t be more than a dollar for a freshly backed fancy fruit loaf or mixed nuts and grain sour dough. I told you there is no limit but your imagination. Go buy a bread machine and you won’t regret it. I recommend this one too if you are gluten intolerance:

This purchase pay itself off after a month of bread making and not buying. I would say this was one of the best decisions in my life and I stand by it forever. Easy, cheap and tasty, waking up to a fresh baked bread smell in the house and so much option at your fingertips, this is what I call perfect replacement.

 

  1. Sauces

So you probably remember that one of the early steps, was to reduce the amount of shopping and do most things at home, for instance cook your food at home. So we were using some premade sauces to do the cooking, namely Asian sauces and Pizza sauce. They were packaged and premade so brought in preservatives, bunch of ingredients that we couldn’t even pronounce and of course packaging, lots of it. to our house. So we set to eliminate them, the Asian ones were easy as we just replace them with a trusty combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. The Pizza sauce was also easy for me to make but my hubby wasn’t a believer, so it took couple of try and errors to turn him as well. Just used a good portion of tomato paste, warm water, pepper and salt and if handy some dried herbs mainly oregano, thyme, coriander and parsley. After that we didn’t buy these and saved tons as each pack was roughly a dollar or two on special. Probably as you notice, we are making our own Pizza and this is beneficial from two aspects, first we save tons of money and second we know exactly what goes into our Pizza, have to confess having the bread maker for making the dough is a huge help. The dough still has to be kneaded and that is when my helpful hubby come into play.

Have to admit having invested in bunch of good and easy cookbooks also helped us a lot to create new foods and don’t get bored as well as eating well and nutritious food with healthy  ingredients. These are some of the books we have: