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.

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 🙂

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.

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:

Step 2. Reduce the size

Reducing is the important part of the zero waste living, some refer to it as de-cluttering but I believe it is even more. De-cluttering is reducing your belongings but Reducing is minimising:

  • what you own
  • what you want
  • what you need both now and in the future

This step is by far the longest part of our journey as we still making changes, reducing on a daily basis what we own, what we buy, what we gather and what we think we should or should not bring to the house.

Eliminating things/stuff one by one was the approach that we decided upon, some go hand in hand with the previous step as we started making stuff in the house hence there was no need to buy them and some goes right into the fact that they were non-essential and could have been cut right out of our lives.

Here we go through each and every one of them, these eliminations might not be in order that they happened in our real life but they all happened at some point in early years of our zero waste journey:

What we eliminated with ease

  1. 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, 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. Just fill your trusty water bottle

and enjoy all healthy and yummy drink that is water.

 

  1. Plastic bag

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century men and women who were not largely as environmentally conscious as 21st century ones. 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 emissions 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.

While you are at it, get rid of plastic bags for good and replace them with produce bags like these

or get your own reusable shopping bags:

 

  1. Takeaway 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 silicones or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

On an ABC program in 2017, War on Waste, they ran a whole episode dedicated to coffee cups that are perceived to be recycling by most Australians but they are not really! As the lining inside the cup that prevent the coffee leaking out is a type of plastic that doesn’t get recycled in a paper recycling process hence has to be taken out before putting into the recycling bin. and that by itself is an onerous task that no one is willing to do. So better and easier option to toss the disposable cups and use one that just need a rinse after each use.

More in the next post….

 

Step 1. Rethink your journey

At the time I was living with my partner/husband with no children in the horizon. So I sat him down and had an honest discussion about what I believe in and how I think we should drastically but gradually change our consumptive life and led a simpler and more joyous living.

We both aspired to the path and agreed to do it in a way that will be lasting and not a short lived change.

The first changes we did were:

  1. Make a conscious decision of buying from market instead of supermarket to bring home less packaging
  2. Taking our shopping bags with us when we go for the weekend market haul
  3. Reusing plastic bags that were ending up in our house despite our best efforts
  4. Try to buy locally
  5. Religiously recycle instead of landfill
  6. Start and strive to make most of the food, bread, jam and in general our eating supplies ourselves in the house

These changes were conscious for about couple of years, when we were quite comfortable with them and they felt an essential part of our life style, more like a habit ingrained in our unconscious. However, being both immigrants-I am from Iran and my husband is from Colombia-we had visitors from overseas where consumption is unfortunately still mistaken as a sign of opulent living. So our attempt to have a simpler life was perceived as lack of economic means or outward stingy. It took me a while to change the dynamics and educate my immediate family on disadvantages of massive consumption but more on that in future posts.